Sometimes the best adventures are not all planned out, our trip to the Denali Highway in the middle of Alaska was like no other. The sight of the first rising arctic grayling 300 miles away from home triggered a feeling of desire in Olin, Tyler, and myself. The minivan door flew open and rod tubes fell out the side, and we wasted no time scrambling to the water. Without closing the doors, a size 12 mosquito made its first drift of the trip. The crystal clear water swept the fly within inches of the rising fish! Before anyone else could make a cast the first fish of the trip came completely out the water to inhale the fly. We released the fish as the mosquitoes latched on to us. We continue to fish more creeks that night before finding a place to camp.
Tuesday morning we woke up to the sound of mosquitoes buzzing outside of our tent. The tent was quickly packed up as we headed to our next fishing spot. It was in a canyon and there was no time to waste. We quickly scrambled down the sides of the canyon and swiftly found the multitude of Grayling. Their spotted fins were distinctive as they rose to the top of the water and grabbed the flies. We were ecstatic to see that the fish took our hand tied flies without hesitation.
The next destination was a creek that looked like a swamp. At first, we were quite skeptical but as soon as our flies hit the water all doubts vanished away. Arctic Grayling were rising all over the place, just waiting to take a bite. That is when the biggest Grayling hit Tyler’s mosquito. He started yelling for me to come over to help land the fish. As I was running through the swamp I saw the fish in all of its beauty. Tyler was beyond happy and we could not believe the biggest fish of the trip was caught in a swamp.
The closer the minivan got to Paxson and the end of the highway we started to wonder what we would do next. Everyone knows that plans change… and by the time Wednesday came around we were already at the end of the road. We were getting tired of being eaten alive by mosquitoes and had caught some beautiful Grayling. All of us thought about where we should go next. Going home was not an option, we still had a fishing fever.
A few Mountain Dews later then the next thing we knew we were almost 200 miles south in Valdez. On the journey to Valdez, we stopped and fished at a few different places, the best one being Blueberry Lake. It had some ten to fifteen inch Rainbows, the catch was that we did not have a boat, so Tyler being the extreme fly fisher he is decided to swim across the lake in order to get over to where the fish were. It was quite entertaining not only to us but some nearby campers and the only unfortunate part of that situation was that his rod broke on the swim back and the mosquitoes had devoured him. Olin, Tyler, and I were in need of some real nutrients besides dehydrated food so we stopped in Valdez, AK for some real food and some rest.
Sometime around Wednesday night the minivan headed back on the Richardson Highway all the way to Glennallen, AK. When we woke Thursday morning to the sun rays heating our tent, we decided to fish our way home because everyone was fairly tired out. There was a sign pointing to a creek five miles away. That sounded like a good idea even though it was a four-wheeler trail. The minivan went over bumps and puddles to get near the creek but was stopped by 2-3 feet deep puddles.
So we continued to walk for another mile or two to actually make it to the creek, where to our luck, there were tons of Grayling. Although they were mostly small, we had a blast catching them throughout the tea-colored creek. As the afternoon sun hit the creek and the fish were seen taking our flies from every angle, we knew that sometimes the best plan is no plan.
Article and photos from Tia Kelliher, check her out on Instagram at @tia.kelliher for more AK content.