fly fishing alaska's dalton highway
Photo: M. Fairbanks

7,000 miles and on

Fly fishing Alaska's Dalton highway

We crested Atigun Pass on the Dalton Highway as the Arctic sun slid seemingly sideways across the cloudless northern sky. Before us stretched the true Arctic, that desolate swath of wind-weary, wilderness muskeg fit for no reasonable human, yet home to mankind for thousands of years.

Here, where trees don’t grow and nude, rocky peaks rise abruptly from the swampy bottoms, caribou and muskoxen wander the willows. Arctic foxes dive into leafy caverns created by ground-hugging vegetation, rangey moose boldly navigate exposed river bottoms and … a pipeline runs through it.

alaskan pike
Photo: Chad Shmukler

Boy scout

Where preparation lacks, adaptation thrives

Preparedness was never my thing. There’s a reason I made it to Webelo, but didn’t matriculate farther through the Boy Scout system. You can only show up at the den meeting without your little scarf slider so many times before it sinks in.

This just isn’t for me.

A native Alaskan arctic grayling.
A native Alaskan arctic grayling (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Guilt

Killing natives

I’ll never forget the look on my buddy’s face that fateful September day on the South Fork of the Snake River several years back, when I unhooked the little hybrid that had sucked in a small nymph and, without ceremony, knocked it over the head and tossed into the willows. Had it been just a bit bigger, I might have pocketed it and brought it home for the frying pan.

fishing rv
Photo: Chris Hunt

That guy

Because toilets and showers are all they're cracked up to be

We’ve all been there. It’s summer. We’re headed somewhere fishy and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can assemble the 4-weight and hit the water. We’ve squeezed a weekend’s worth of beer and grub into the back of the SUV, and we’re ready to stand knee-deep in a trout stream and wash away all that’s wrong with the world. We’re on some two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere, and the speed limit is merely a strong suggestion.

Kulik Creek - Wood Tikchik National Park - Alaska
The Wood Range overlooks the crystal clear, grayling-charged waters of Kulik creek (photo: Chad Shmukler).

A fifth lake run

Fishermen want fireworks, even if they’re drawn from imagination rather than reality

Few things in the world of fishing are what they seem, whether it is fly shop chatter about last night’s hatch, a guide’s description of the rivers he or she works, or a brochure about the bonefish trip you’re thinking about taking. This is with good reason. Fishermen, despite a lifetime of learning that should teach them to do otherwise, carry the weight of unreasonably lofty expectations.

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