Flylords caught up with Patrick Clayton or @fisheyeguyphotography as many of you probably know him by to discuss his recent trip up to the Brooks Moutain Range in Northern Alaska. Check out the interview below to learn more about this special place that is on the true “Edge of Humanity.”
Flylords: Can you tell us a little about your latest trip? Where were you? Why do you call it the Edge of Humanity?
Patrick: All the way to Santa’s doorstep, this was the North Slope of the Brooks Range in Alaska. It is about as remote as you can be, leaving Fairbanks on the Haul road has the feeling that you are leaving humanity behind, that feeling is doubled when you take off and head into the Wilderness refuge.
Flylords: What was the goal of the trip?
Patrick: The goal was to document the Arctic Char run and the Wildlife Refuge, this is the area they have plans to drill for oil in. Known as ANWR, it is a special place, a throwback to the ice age, as wild as it comes, untouched and dramatic. Oil companies have had their sights set on this place since day one, with luck my images will help tell its story and be part of the effort to preserve it as is.
Flylords: Did you accomplish those goals?
Patrick: Only time will tell.
Flylords: Did you face any harsh conditions? Any dicey moments with wildlife?
Patrick: This was not something I took lightly, It was stressful as winter was barreling in on us and we were as far from help as you could be. We did it out of pack rafts and took a month to descend 150 miles from the snow-laden headwaters to near the arctic ocean. The only way to tackle something like that is light and fast, it was me and my wilderness survivalist friend existing on 600 calories a day. I ran into a very aware sow with three cubs. She somehow sensed me in a headwind over a roaring creek, her great head popped up and she boogied. A true master of her domain, I thank her for her being on point, had she not been I woulda walked right into her as it was a blind spot for me, the wind was not in my favor and there was no way to make noise over the creek.
Flylords: Did you get to fish? What were you fishing for and how were you targeting them?
Patrick: We had tough conditions as the range was pummeled with snow on September first, that snow melted with the ensuing rainstorms and blew the main river tout to flood stage. We did find some eddies and spring channels where large arctic char were. We caught some but it is really more a wilderness trip than a fishing trip.
Flylords: Would you recommend this trip to an everyday angler?
Patrick: No, a guided float in summer yes but a DIY trip is a very dangerous and logistically difficult proposition.
Flylords: Do you have a favorite image from the trip?
Patrick: I think the big snowy panorama, that was day one. We flew in and the mountains were caked with a big fluke early winter storm. The red was still on the tundra, I hiked a few thousand feet up a mountain to find that view. It was an utterly spectacular sight. I felt small and kind of scared.
Flylords: Tell us about some of the wildlife you had the pleasure of seeing?
Patrick: Small bands of caribou, Muskox, Grizzly bear, huge flocks of migratory birds out on the arctic plain. It has a very clan of the cave bear feel to it.
Flylords: Are there any environmental concerns in this area?
Patrick: Yeah, they have their eyes on a large chunk of habitat between the mountains and the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling. This is critical habitat for the massive Porcupine caribou herd, the largest migratory ungulate herd left in North America.
Flylords: Where to next?
Patrick: I am staying close to home here in Montana, myself and a small team are gonna document irrigation diversions affect on our rivers with drones and on the ground videography. People do not realize the extent to which the rivers in Montana are dewatered and what a shadow of themselves they truly are. It is the number one environmental concern in regards to trout and an issue everyone avoids talking about. The problem is exasperated by rampant development and a snowpack that melts out much earlier than it used to. Minimum streamflow legislation would be the only savior of our main stem coldwater fisheries and it is a well past time that the discussion begins.
For more incredible photography from Patrick Clayton check out his Instagram @fisheyeguyphotography or be sure to follow him on facebook as well.