My take on a lifetime trip to AK (long, with photos at the end)) - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-08-2018, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Teton River, South Fork of the Snake, Henry's Fork
Posts: 204
My take on a lifetime trip to AK (long, with photos at the end)

In 2016, I heard that an old friend, Dee, who I had fallen out of touch with, had come down with a rare, debilitating disease for which there is no treatment. I called him to ask how he was doing, and to ask him if he wanted to go out on the river with me.

Dee said he couldnít go, because he was leaving for Salt Lake City for medical tests. We got to talking, and one thing led to another. He started talking about his fishing trips to Alaska in the 1970s. He had made DIY rafting trips and fished a bunch of different rivers. He told me, ďYou should go to Alaska while you can.Ē That sank in, and I started thinking seriously about going.

I had looked at Ardís website before this, but fishing in Alaska always seemed out of reach for some reason. There are a lot of choices for someone who isnít sure where to go; not so many choices for someone who is on a budget. I looked at the websites of lodges, and I bought a guidebook on fly fishing Alaska to see if I could DIY it. I decided that if I couldnít fish with Ard, I probably wouldnít fish in Alaska.

Ard was already booked up that year. Early the next year, 2017, I called Ard and we talked about some dates. I procrastinated, and Ard got booked up for 2017. I started emailing Ard in early January of this year, and firmed up my dates in January, 2018.

I flew to Anchorage June 16, 6 days before my wife did. Ard picked me up at the airport, and I stayed with him and his wife, Nancy, as part of Ardís package. Ard trailered his jet boat to a boat ramp each day.

The first day, my casting was a little rusty. Having to wade deep because of the high water didnít help my casting, either. The place we fished first is usually a gravel bar above water; I never did see it above water and some days it was 2-3 feet under. As the day went on, my casting warmed up and we got the skunk off with 2 Kings. The second day, my casting came around a little (there was also less wind) and I caught 4. The third day, we had a stiff upstream wind in the afternoon. The wind, combined with the deep wading at the end of the day, crashed my casting. I had brought a reel with a Skagit setup on it, but it was back at Ardís house. I made sure to bring it my fourth day, and I used it all that day. The sun came out, the fish were in, and I caught 10 Kings my last day. What a day!

Ard told me that the next day the river was closed to ALL fishing for Kings, including catch and release. There have been a lot of closures this year because of the low returns. There seems to be a lot of heartburn among Alaskans over the many catch and release/closure regulations, but the upside (if there is one) is that there are a lot fewer people out fishing. For a guy like me, who is used to catch and release and who doesnít need to bring home a cooler full of salmon, it is a good thing.

The day after I was done fishing, Ard gave me a ride to the RV rental agency, where I picked up the motorhome that would be our base of operations for the rest of the trip. I met my wife at the airport, and the next part of the adventure started.

There is a travel guidebook published up there, called The Milepost, which Ard insisted that I get. I was glad he did, as it had a lot of information on campgrounds, viewpoints, etc. listed milepost by milepost. Ard gave us another other great tip on the route to take from Anchorage to see Denali. Instead of going directly from Anchorage to Denali, he suggested we take the Glen Highway along the Matunaska River, then the Denali Highway to Denali National Park. We saw a lot of Alaska that we would not have seen otherwise.

Thanks to taking seriously Ard's advice on timing my trip (and to hiring Ard as my guide), I had the trip of a lifetime. Going with Ard let me take that trip of a lifetime within my budget. And, it was the best fishing experience I could imagine.

Besides telling me I should go to Alaska, my friend told me that the place gets into your blood, and one trip isnít enough. Spey pagers have said the same thing in the ďRecommendations for lifetime Chinook trip in AKĒ thread. They are right about that; Iím already plotting how to afford going again next year.

Thanks, Dee!

Thanks, Ard!

(After attempting to add photos, I can see why so many have complained about the photo posting function here. I got a few, but will have to try again to get the rest. I give up on trying to get captions where they belong)

Here is a link to a few of my non-fishing photos from my trip:
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MC (Mike Commins)

Last edited by mcommins; 07-08-2018 at 11:11 PM.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-08-2018, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Teton River, South Fork of the Snake, Henry's Fork
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More Alaska photos

Related to my original post. If anyone can tell me how to insert text between the photos, I would be eternally grateful.
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MC (Mike Commins)
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-08-2018, 08:46 PM
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Ard is good people and good company. Especially great with making sure to be respectful of the fish when it comes to taking photos. Good to see Boss doing well. Looks like you had a great trip. 👍
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-09-2018, 12:40 AM
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My pictures would not post no matter how I tried to attach them, the links only go to images not to a website.

Hey Mike!

You too Rusty, you guys make me sound like a nicer guy than I ever thought I was

There's no way to explain how happy I am that you caught so many fish Mike. If I remember correct I talked you out of coming last year because I thought it would be a bust. This year was a gamble but we bet right.

My home river, the one we didn't fish due to the flooded conditions remains high and dirty. I did fish it on July third because I just needed to go fishing, I caught a king! it was colored and I was not targeting kings but that was what I caught.


That is the only picture I took, I think it was about a 20 - 22 pound fish, it was a male. I caught it on this steelhead tube........with a #6 hook tied on.

The rest of the day was a nice boat ride for Boss and I, you can see the silt in the water in the picture below.

I drove about 20 miles up to what is usually a nice stretch of fast water with plenty of rips and seams but the entire mile of water was just a high swift slick and very hard to fish that day.

It looked like this, full from bank to bank and I'd say it was moving about 6.5 mph right down the middle.

I did a lot of sitting and enjoyed the sunny day. If it clears up before it freezes up I'll send you some pictures of the trout if I can still find them

And Rusty, you and Ross hit things right too buddy. That unnamed river has been flooded ever since spring with very few kings returning this year. By fall it may be so low that we would have to hike up river like we did a few years back. Things have been tough bud.
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Last edited by Hardyreels; 07-09-2018 at 03:18 PM.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-10-2018, 11:48 AM
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great post, good to see you're still kickin', Ard.

Toss a stick to Boss for Ron and I
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-10-2018, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Teton River, South Fork of the Snake, Henry's Fork
Posts: 204
Maybe you did talk me out of it, Ard. I think your reports last year did contribute to my decision not to go in August for silvers. Probably like a lot of first time visitors, my wife and I were in awe of the Exit glacier when we first saw it. Then, to see the display in the visitor center, and realize how far and how fast it has receded, my photos take on a different meaning to me. The same with the Matanuska glacier. The glaciers that feed your river must be melting like crazy. But, that discussion is probably better addressed in a new thread

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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 07-10-2018, 11:36 PM
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What I can do Mike is to look through my old Kodachrome trays for pictures of Matanuska Glacier that I took in 1989. Back then it was close enough to the Glen that you could feel the cold radiating from it and you could smell it.

Silvers are still a gamble but like this last trip things can work out if those pesky planets are in proper alignment
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