I can remember sitting on my couch in Delaware searching YouTube for fly fishing videos. Watching Trout Bum Diaries and trying to mimic their casting the next time I would hit the water. I hadn’t been fly fishing more than a year at the time but I was hooked. That’s when I came across a black and white video by Simms on an Alaskan lodge by the name of Alaska West. I sat on that couch and watched the video 10 times over. The following day I opened a savings account and named it “The Alaskan Fund”. No matter what I had to do I was going to Alaska west.
After finishing the last three years of my enlistment I had my Tacoma loaded to the gills and was headed home to Montana. The AK Fund was still nowhere near what I needed for the trip however slowly but surely I was getting closer. My main focus was to fish and improve as much as possible, save as much money as possible, and try to show up to work on time after a long weekend. The trip of a lifetime was at my fingertips.
After 3 1/2 years of saving I sent an email to Deneki Outdoors and made my reservation with Alaska West. It was the second week in August when I arrived at camp. The first two days of fishing were everything I had dreamt of. Alaska itself along with the Kanektok river are truly amazing places. To say the fishing was good would be an understatement. However nothing could prepare me for what day three had in store. My guide that day was a first year guide by the name of Jason Whiting. We started the day like the two prior, hitting the lower river looking for silvers. I remember the noseeums were especially bad that morning, fighting fish and being eaten alive, I loved every second of it! By the time we had caught our limit my fishing partner ED Novinsky noticed something I hadn’t. That morning I had hooked and landed 4 of the 5 species of pacific salmon. Without saying the words in fear of jinxing me, I had a chance at the shhhhhhh ………..Grand Salami.
Jason and Ed thought it would be best to make a move and see if we could find that final fish as well as search the braids for rainbows. I was more set on trying to catch the Dolly Varden of my dreams. Salmon are great and all but have you ever seen a clowned up Dolly?! Jason was more than happy to oblige and within no time I was standing on the bank, my rod doubled over with the fish I had waited more than 3 years for. The moment I looked in the net I saw the most beautiful and perfect fish I had ever seen. This was the Dolly of my dreams, and the dream had come true. I know that week a smile never left my face but at this moment it was ear to ear. When you find yourself on the water with people who are equally, if not more excited than you are in these moments, you are fishing with the right people. Jason and Ed are the epitome of that. He measured in at 28″ and was flawless. I am convinced only a higher power could have created such a specimen. We spent the rest of the day sight fishing rainbows and looking for that last piece of the puzzle. With five minutes left in the day I landed the final salmon and capped the best day of fishing of my life.
Only a few days before I was on a flight to Anchorage, nervous that I had come on this trip alone. To this day Jason and Ed are two of my favorite people I’ve fished with. After days like that I think you’re connected through the experience for life. And we will do it again some day. Until then I’ll sit back and dream about the Dolly days of Alaska.