Questions with a Captain: Tanner Hylek

An unscripted & uncensored peek into the minds of Alaskan guides.

Community showers that might have hot water, basic electricity powered by a generator (so don’t forget to fill it), bears that prowl through camp at night, and sleeping in a wood and tarp tent for six months – these are just a few things that ensure that the guides up at Alaska’s Naknek River Camp never have a dull moment.

After spending last summer with this crew we couldn’t help but be impressed by their passion and dedication for what they do… and the sheer insanity. Get to know a little more about the guides that really make Alaska tick.

Flylords: So, tell us, who is Tanner?

Tanner: I am a 28-year-old trout bum that spends his summers in Alaska guiding. I’m a very easy-going guy. I like long walks on the beach, top movie would have to be Saving Private Ryan, I love Xtra Tuff boots and that’s a little bit about me.

Flylords: How did you end up in King Salmon, Alaska?

Tanner: Destiny. Haha. I was very unhappy with my sales role, working a 9 to 5 back home, I wanted to find a job that I truly enjoy and didn’t feel like I was working. I knew that fishing was something I enjoyed and wanted to find a way that I could support my addiction as well as support myself and that led me to Alaska. The Johnsons have a lot of ties in Michigan so that’s how I got connected with them: through a local fly shop. And the rest is history. 

Flylords: What does a typical day look like for you?

Tanner: That’s a loaded question because there isn’t a typical day here in Alaska. Every day is different and that’s what I love about it most. It’s not repetitive, every day is different, you learn something new every single day, everything is constantly changing. Your typical day is not very typical. 

But a typical day is fishing the main river here, out of a boat with two clients. 

Flylords: How do you prepare for a season in Alaska?

Tanner: A lot of preparation definitely goes in. I have a lot of sticky notes in my phone, little reminders, and stuff I think about as the year goes on. I try to write down an idea when it’s sparked in my head so when it is time to come up here I have a list of everything I need.

A lot of prep going into tying flies. I spend most of my time in the winter tying flies, getting prepared, making sure that I have two of everything. It’s kind of a pain getting things up here so it’s better to be prepared. Make sure you aren’t just cramming one week before you come up here. It’s a year-round thing.

Flylords: What’s one thing you wouldn’t hit the water without?

Tanner: A good attitude!

Flylords: Where do you live in the off-season?

Tanner: West Michigan.

Flylords: What occupies your time in the off-season? 

Tanner: Trout and steelhead occupy a lot of my time back home. As well as my lovely girlfriend Kendall. We have a house together so what’s occupied a lot of my time is turning our house into a home.

Flylords: Do you guide anywhere else? If so, how if that different from guiding in Alaska?

Tanner: I do not guide back at home.

Flylords: What is your favorite fish to target in your own backyard?

Tanner: Brown trout. They’re so pretty and smart.

Flylords: If you were a fly or streamer pattern which would you be and why?

Tanner: Hmm. I would probably be a Circus Peanut because I like to get down and dirty. 

Flylords: What’s your favorite part about being up in Alaska?

Tanner: My favorite part about being up in Alaska is being surrounded by so many people that share the same passion as I do. It’s not bad being able to walk out your front door, step in the boat, and head out fishing too.

Flylords: What do you miss most about home?

Tanner: Probably Wendy’s – a Dave’s single, medium, with a 4 piece nugget.

Flylords: What is your favorite AK memory? 

Tanner: The day I leave, just kidding haha. There’s too many but if I had to pick one… I don’t know this is like when someone asks me what my favorite song is my brain is like like ‘eeeeeeeh’. I mean there’s definitely got to be one.

Flylords: Final Thoughts? 

Tanner: No, but I think we are very fortunate to do what we do up here and I’m grateful that I get to do what I love and do it around so many awesome people. I’m forever grateful for the opportunities that have been available to me since I’ve been coming up here.

To keep up with Tanner, follow him on Instagram @tannerhylek

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