Thoughts on Future AK Trip

Gundriver64

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Hi Guys,

For awhile now I have had thoughts/dreams of an AK fishing trip (summer 2022) as a retirement gift to myself (post military).

However, reading through these threads is a bit depressing with regards to the massive declines in salmon runs-and it gives me second thoughts about planning such a trip. I don't have any real desire to go after any kind of salmon, but rather I am interested in fishing for grayling, char, and rainbows. These threads have enlightened me on how much these fish rely on these same salmon runs for survival.

A little bit about the kind of fishing I prefer: I live in the interior West. I enjoy doing day hikes to small streams/creeks that most people won't bother putting the time and effort into fishing. I would much rather catch some beautiful 10" native in a beautiful setting over some alien trophy brown or rainbow caught in one of the big out west rivers.

With this in mind: is it worth the time and effort to plan a DIY trip where I can camp, do some fishing, explore/hike/fish on my own?

Could I go spend 10K on a week's fishing trip to some fantastic remote waters? Short answer: yes. However, it's FAR more satisfying to me getting out there myself, putting in the work, and doing a DIY trip.

~BREAK~

Ard thanks for all your contributions. Off topic: I am a big fan of German Shepherds. They're silly smart and incredible dogs.

Cheers All,
G
 

100954

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I have been to Alaska twice, spending a total of six weeks there, catching all five pacific salmon, 25” rainbow, char and grayling. If I were to go again it would be to fish grayling. For me catching them on A dry fly (elk hair Caddis - skated) Was more fun than catching big rainbows on flesh flys or beads. It sounds to me like you might enjoy camping and fishing the Denali Highway. We rented a pickup camper and did that for a few days & caught lots of grayling. We did not go farther north to the Fairbanks area but if I were to go again I would as I think there is good grayling fishing there. As mentioned, Ard can address that far better than I. Also, be cautious of so called outfitters offering day, “fly out” trips, as we got bamboozled once on a fly out to Lake Creek. And finally, growing in North Dakota and Minnesota I thought I had seen the worst of mosquitoes, but not even close to what we encountered at times in Alaska.
 

Ard

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Hi,

It seems that things have indeed changed here. When I say 'here' I mean South Central Alaska and that is where the road system exists. The Denali region is in South Central and there are still some good grayling streams to fish along the Denali Highway. The two most striking differences I can point out between this part of Alaska and the western US would be as follows.

When I say 'road system' I mean improved public roads. There are actually more miles of improved (maintained) public roads in the county where I was born in North Central Pennsylvania than there are in Alaska. While driving from Fairbanks to Homer a person could be misled into thinking these roads go on forever but actually this would be under a 700 mile trip. The roads do intersect streams and rivers but these access points are those that have been 'explored' by literally millions of visitors through the past 60 years. This is not to say that one can not find a trout or grayling near a bridge / road access but there is no active stocking program here and once a fish is damaged or taken that's it for that opportunity. Because of this it is the person willing to walk a considerable distance who will find some resident fish. Many places are simply without an immediate road access point and therefore nearly impossible to reach.

The second point to make for the sake of transparency is that walking / hiking in this part of the North American Continent is tremendously different than anywhere I've ever been. I lived in Colorado Springs for some time and trekked deep into the gorges fishing many small streams and was able to carry a frame pack and camp to do this. Other states I've had experiences with back country hike / camp / fish trips are too many to list but if the state has wild trout, I've been there except for the UP of Michigan sadly. Here in Alaska even following a creek quickly becomes a tedious undertaking with heavy Alder & Willow growth that can seem impenetrable. This is the only place I've ever lived and hiked where a manchette is prerequisite. Stream crossings are many just in order to reach a point perhaps a mile from the access point and when attempting this along a river crossings are sometimes impossible. The thing I can point to that causes this difficulty in traveling along many of these creeks and rivers is that many have what is called a 'serpentine' course like spring creeks in the Yellowstone Valley except these don't flow through a meadow.

All that may not paint a rosy picture for a DIY tripper I know. In order to 'Get away from it all' you need the services of either a bush plane, serious ORV, or a water taxi to transport you to a predetermined location. This is why lodges exist on many of the best rivers. While lodge stays in Montana could be considered a luxury, here they are the only option. I do believe that the best DIY opportunities are to be found in the Denali area, there and along the Richardson Highway between Paxon and Valdez. This is a part of the State that I have barely scratched the surface of due to the distance from my home here.

While I'm warning about many things I must add that a great many of the streams and rivers are of glacial origin and will become murky with glacial silt during the summer months. Most of the smaller streams along the Richardson are clear but the larger rivers you will intersect during travel will look pretty scary. If your target is grayling and trout / Char, I would recommend coming here post Labor Day holiday because that is when things get much more quiet. If you want assistance with finding air transport and lodging here just reach out to me through the forum. I may be able to help you find a good venue for what you want without it costing $10 K / week which I think is a bit over the top to say the least.

The kind of places I recommend are generally the type where you don't see other people unless they are with you although that isn't always possible.

I've came back to edit in a few more comments after a couple hours thought. My remarks and opinions are not meant to be negative or to dissuade people from visiting here to fish. I am just being honest in relaying what I have seen with my own eyes and experienced through the past 16 seasons here. I access the places I fish either by river boat or by flying in to some places. Trout fishing where I enjoy it is an all bets off type trip. You may catch none or you may knock the spots off of them. Because I live here and have access I can handle a day with no fish, if I were traveling thousands of miles to fish the same place I can't say how I'd feel about it.

I think an Alaskan trip comes down to a persons perception of what the experience should be. If you picture unspoiled wilderness with not a soul in sight then some of the famous destinations are going to fall short. The more fish that are in an area the more people that will be there after them. Some of the best places I've found to catch small stream rainbows are very overlooked and so I will not describe them online.

Ard
 
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Gundriver64

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Thanks Guys,

Your insights give me some direction with planning a a future trip!

Cheers,
G
 

Monello

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I've caught grayling by hiking back to Grayling Lake just off the Seward Highway near the town of Moose. Any dry fly was working that day. I've done a fly in for grayling on Cresent Lake. It's hikeable but will take a while to get there.

Hiking back to Meridian lake will reward you with some gorgeous rainbows. Any day I spent at either Grayling or Meridian lake, I was the only person on the water. You can fish there from the bank. I've used waders and a float tube to cover more water.

Military members can utilize the Army Rec Center as an economical base camp.
 

bushak

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I live in the bush but sometimes it's nice, in non-Covid times, to do a week trip to experience the finer things in life. You can easily do a DIY fishing trip utilizing the road system. The most important thing to keep in mind is what are your target species and what time of year were you looking at coming up. The fishing, and the fish itself, can vary greatly depending on when you come up. I've had several friends fly up during the summer for extended camping trips.

Let me know and I can give some advice on camping spots, breweries, streams, etc. I also highly recommend my bible, The Highway Angler by Gunnar Pederson. It has a lot of public access spots across the road system.


 

Acheron

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Don't let the rumors keep you from dreaming.

If you want to float, camp, and fish, these guys run a great place. They make it so easy, you can rent almost everything from them and they take half the planning away leaving you to focus on the food and fishing:

I rafting isn't in the books then I recommend what everyone else has. Check out the road system books, use the internet to research, and head out ready to have fun! :)

You can't go wrong anywhere in Alaska!
 

Gundriver64

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Don't let the rumors keep you from dreaming.

If you want to float, camp, and fish, these guys run a great place. They make it so easy, you can rent almost everything from them and they take half the planning away leaving you to focus on the food and fishing:

I rafting isn't in the books then I recommend what everyone else has. Check out the road system books, use the internet to research, and head out ready to have fun! :)

You can't go wrong anywhere in Alaska!
Thanks! Will check these guys out.
 

bushak

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I know the guys from Papa Bear. First class outfit and are pretty familiar, by now, of operating within Covid-19 restrictions. The bulk of Western Alaska is still essentially on lockdown but fingers crossed for things loosening up by summer.
 

ptarmigan

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If it were me and I wanted to fish for grayling and dollies, I’d continue on to Nome. Rent a vehicle and drive the three roads that lead out of town. Stop and fish the many rivers out there and you’ll catch trophy sized grayling and tons of dollies. Go the end of June to early July. Lots of light, warm temps, great dry fly fishing, and dollies on the swing using salmon fry patterns. It’s really quite amazing. The trip is really pretty inexpensive depending on how you do it. Would make for a great 2-4 day side trip. Shoot me a pm if you want some specifics.


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Gundriver64

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If it were me and I wanted to fish for grayling and dollies, I’d continue on to Nome. Rent a vehicle and drive the three roads that lead out of town. Stop and fish the many rivers out there and you’ll catch trophy sized grayling and tons of dollies. Go the end of June to early July. Lots of light, warm temps, great dry fly fishing, and dollies on the swing using salmon fry patterns. It’s really quite amazing. The trip is really pretty inexpensive depending on how you do it. Would make for a great 2-4 day side trip. Shoot me a pm if you want some specifics.


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Sure will! I am a year plus out from pressing the "go" button (2022), but time flies.
 

joe_strummer

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We caught tons of grayling this size up there. Some bigger. The dolly was pretty average sized for what we caught. I did find the dollies fought much differently than what I was used to here in SC AK. They jumped and ran like the rainbows do. Pretty cool place!





awesome stuff. them's the fish to which i referred. grayling that eat 2/0 bunny flies.
 

bushak

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If it were me and I wanted to fish for grayling and dollies, I’d continue on to Nome. Rent a vehicle and drive the three roads that lead out of town. Stop and fish the many rivers out there and you’ll catch trophy sized grayling and tons of dollies. Go the end of June to early July. Lots of light, warm temps, great dry fly fishing, and dollies on the swing using salmon fry patterns. It’s really quite amazing. The trip is really pretty inexpensive depending on how you do it. Would make for a great 2-4 day side trip. Shoot me a pm if you want some specifics.


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Keep in mind that there might be some covid restrictions in Nome and the surrounding villages. At least that's the case around Bethel. Other than that the dry fly fishing is amazing on that gravel "road" on the way out of town.
 
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