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Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Fly Fishing Mystery Alaska: A Fish Story

Imagine an Alaskan paradise with trout bigger than your leg, bears, and caribou traipsing by camp, and no people–except your good friends. This place exists, we just can't tell you where it is.

by: Photos & Story by Jonathan Dorn

Sweeper-shielded cut banks provide excellent cover.
Sweeper-shielded cut banks provide excellent cover.
Editor-in-Chiefl Jonathan Dorn with one of his many catches.
Editor-in-Chiefl Jonathan Dorn with one of his many catches.


video icon Video: Mystery Alaska
Think you know where our editor in chief caught that whopper? Watch the video for yourself.

photo icon  Photo Gallery: A Fish Story
  Fish, fish, and more fish. Welcome to Alaska.

The fishing gets tougher in the last two days as the river swells with rainfall. But the salmon, which are arriving fresh from the sea, are at full strength; the battles get longer and more entertaining. James and Steve hook silvers that fight like hornets and nearly tangle. A submarine hammers my bead, flashes a long crimson side, and strips line with an angry whine; I give chase in my hip waders, running downstream with the agility of a wounded musk ox.

On our last night out, we dig into our first salmon dinner. Glenn has baked thick steaks carved from the silvers in foil with herbs and butter, and we wonder how we'll ever be able to eat store-bought again. After dinner, we lick fish grease from our fingers, too stuffed to get up and wash, too tired to worry much about bears.

The next morning, a boat takes us back to ********, and we clean up for our flight to Anchorage. "We're spoiled now," Gerry muses as we shave off 10 days of stubble. "We should hand in our rods–there's no way it can ever get better than this." He's joking, I think, but he has a point: Try to replicate any great adventure, and you risk ruining the memory.

Yet he's wrong, too. Gazing at a map of Alaska tacked across the lodge's living room wall, I recall what Frank said–and count hundreds of rivers and mountains where new plans will take root. Gerry sidles over, then James and Steve, and soon we're plotting another adventure. And in that moment, standing there with my oldest friends, fresh from the best trip of our lives, I realize that what I love about Alaska is that it's big enough, and wild enough, to nourish the fantasies that sustain people like us. I don't know when we'll enjoy another trip as extraordinary as the ********** River, but I know it's possible. And if it takes another 30 years? So be it. I'm perfectly happy to daydream.

Jonathan Dorn lives in *****, CO.

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Dec 28, 2010

You can tell me. I won't tell my daughter and son-in-law that retired up there. Nor would I ever visit them and ask them to take ME to that place. I promise! <fingers crossed>

Mar 04, 2010

I don't think if you tell people where you are, there is suddenly going to be a rush of people who wouldn't normally spend thousands of bucks, and brave tiny little prop planes and wild bears just to go fishing.. heading up there. Way up there.

any who.... jealous I am. I can almost hear the water and smell the clean air....


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