After the seaplane brought us back to Anchorage, and we spent a night at the Millennium Hotel, the lodge's pilot picks us up the next morning. Four other anglers are on board as well. The flight lasts only about 40 minutes, during which we catch several glimpses of the Talchulitna River, our fishing destination.
The lodge is nestled in an idyllic forest clearing, very close to the river. Small log cabins are scattered around the main house where meals are prepared and where guests gather to dine. The cabins have individual bedrooms, a shared bathroom, and a living room with a fireplace. It's incredibly cozy.
The lodge has two helicopters and a Piper on-site, allowing us to cover distances quickly. We are flown out every day: to the Talachulitna River by helicopter and to more distant rivers by plane.
On the first day, we fly to a prime pool on the Talachulitna River. After only about ten casts with the two-handed rod, I already have the first strike and land a 16-kilogram King – an excellent fish! Once again, it heads from the pool into the fast water, but I pursue it and manage to land it. Finally, a big King! Unfortunately, Andy has no success and no bites.
The salmon run is late and lower in numbers this year. For this reason, the guides, in coordination with us, decide that we should fly further with the Piper and fish for Red Salmon. We end up at a small tributary of the Susitna, where we truly catch several Red Salmon. One of them, the guides grill for us. Fresh Red Salmon is truly excellent!
Andy has long wished to catch a lot of Northern Pike. So, on the third day, we fly to Lake Alexander. We are surprised to see a Tyrolean flag there. As we find out later, the lodge at Lake Alexander is owned by the Swarovski family.
We catch a tremendous number of Northern Pike there, although none of them are particularly large. Many years ago, Pike were introduced into Lake Alexander, and since then, no other fish species exist there. The Pike have wiped out the Salmon, and now they've turned cannibalistic, leaving no other fish population.
We take a helicopter to the vicinity of the river's mouth and then float from pool to pool to the mouth. There, we catch three Kings and some large Rainbow Trout. Andy finally catches his first Salmon – one of them is truly impressive.
Today, the target is Dolly Varden. The lodge owner, Mark Miller, tells us about a crystal-clear, elevated stream. It's said to have many Dolly Varden, provided they're there already – a little risky. The variety appeals to us, and we decide to fly there.
The river is exceptionally beautiful. In the first pool alone, we catch many Dollies, some up to 65 cm, using nymphs in dead drift and small Crystal Buggers. In many places, we can spot the larger specimens in advance and then target them specifically. Excellent conditions!