I had begun to feel like Frank Smethurst dreaming of far-off Russia. But then there I was eating dinner in Naknek, Alaska with one of the last members of the Aleut tribe, Paul Boskoffsky. Alaska, the final frontier and the one place I had given up any real hope of ever seeing. Over the last 18 years I have planned 6 trips to Alaska each ending up being cancelled for one reason or another. And yet Alaska was now reality. I was so stoked to finally be heli fishing in Alaska! My attention was completely riveted to the 78 year old man sitting next to us speaking of his beloved people and their lost way of life. Paul’s stories brought to life a forgotten way of living. It was perhaps the best experiences of the trip. My heart longed to exist in such a simple world, rather I would have to settle for a mere glimpse of that way of life.

The tundra would serve as our temporary home as we set up camp and prepared to explore the areas waters. We were prospecting for fish, some of which, once served as the life blood of an entire village. Blood, it seemed, was the appropriate comparison as red salmon pushed up the river systems as if being pumped through the veins and arteries of the land. The entire ecosystem was linked and dependent on the arrival of these fish. The bears lined the banks of certain streams not so patiently awaiting for the red tide to course up the river. At times there were so many fish moving up river I imagined it as the Nile in the biblical times of Moses.

The Alaskan backcountry must be one of the most incredible places left on earth. Areas so remote you could forget civilization existed. Waking up early every morning provided unique experiences, foxes searching for a meal in the half light or bears casually crossing the tundra. The tundra was made up of imaginary highways to the rivers where nature was providing a feast of Salmon.

Now to the part I suppose all of you have been waiting for; the fishing! At times fishing should have been renamed catching. It seemed all the remote creeks, streams and rivers were teaming with eager fish. Almost every time a pool had sockeye in it, the rest of the cast were there too. The Dollies and Grayling would follow pairs of salmon up river waiting for the spawning party to begin. They would hold behind the reds in small schools just hoping for an easy meal. Once you located sockeyes in spawning pairs all one needed to do was tie on an egg pattern and hold on. Fish would swing across ten feet of current in an all out school house assault trying to beat the rest of their class to your plastic offering.

If eggs didn’t immediately do the trick streamers would almost always get a response. It was a streamer fisherman’s paradise. The average Dolly going about 18-20″ with plenty of fish in the 24-25″ range. Grayling in this particular Alaskan area were not far behind the Dollies averaging about 18″ and some going 21 plus inches. Walking up to a crystal clear pool and seeing hundreds of fish, then watching them fight over your streamer never got old!

So here is the concluding paragraph and advice for those reading. If you ever get a chance to head north to Alaska, go! If you are even the tiniest part adventurous then avoid the big commercial lodges in heavily populated areas and choose something more remote. Leave behind the lodge experience you can find in most states and countries and look for something truly Alaskan. Search out those lodges and operations that specialize in remote, wilderness, backcountry travel and fishing and experience Alaska as it is meant to be experienced. Rough, rugged and perfect!

Hope you enjoy the gallery!

About The Author

Hawg Wrangler

Derek Olthuis, raised in the wilds of Montana like the Jungle Book's Mowgli. Totally obsessed with fly fishing, exploring and adventure. When not guiding he enjoys fly fishing and Squatching for Unicorns. Fishing is fun!

3 Responses

  1. bumb

    What kind of rifle were you toting in pic #23, and did it ever come into use? Keep up the good work gents.

    • Derek

      12ga. Shotgun filled with special slugs for big game! Never needed it but it was nice to be ready just in case.


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