Meeting up at MacLaren Lodge, we started our trip along the Denali Highway as we always do with some fly fishing for grayling at Clearwater Creek. The river was in great shape and everyone caught fish on nymphs and dry flies. Mike, a new-comer to fly fishing, quickly learned the basic cast. He had a few hits but didn't land them until we hiked over to a spot that always delivers for us, where he caught two in a drift where the current moved toward the bank. That started him off, and he just kept casting and landing fish the remainder of the trip.
Our second day was spent on a small, clear water stream after a couple of sightings of caribou along the way. Absolutely gorgeous weather and exceptional fishing were the order of the day. Grayling after grayling grabbed our elk-hair caddis, and, when we changed to nymphs for variety, they did the same. After a while the question of the day was "Can you find a fly they won't take?"
Mary had fun rummaging through her fly boxes for tinier & tinier offerings and even had several double when she put a small dropper off the bend of a wet fly. Barb caught fish after fish right at the far bank with dead-drifted parachute Adams without moving at all, and so did Mike, our neophyte, who found a mother-load of fish in one spot where he caught fifteen fish before his tattered fly gave up the ghost.
Our hosts at Maclaren Lodge, Alan & Susie Echols, made us feel right at home, as they always do. Alan changed a flat on Barb's & Mike's car and Susie kept us well fed with her scrumptious home-made bread & desserts. Their year-round service to the area's snowmachiners is amazing, and their great weather-cam keeps us in touch.
We headed back towards Tangle Lakes & Tangle River the next day for the second part of our trip and bush-wacked our way over to a spot that usually offers both great nymphing water and a long stretch of quiet dry-fly fishing. The river had changed course during the spring run-off, however, and we had to change our tactics. Mary planted herself at a shaded spot where fish were rising, and Barb chose nymphing in some of the new pools. Mike parked right next to a small drop-off where fish holding. Thank goodness for our Folstaf wading sticks to help us navigate the slippery rocks that Tangle River is noted for.
After lunch we headed to a different part of the river where nymphing was definitely the way to catch fish. With bead-head gold-ribbed hares ear nymphs and a couple of small split-shot on the leader all three of them were having grabs on every cast. And, to top it all off, these were larger fish than they had been catching with several measuring 18-inches and over. Just as on previous days, every single fish was released safely. What an afternoon!
Our last morning we headed over to Rock Creek as our final stop of the trip. The water in the creek was unbelievably low and for a while, the only active fish were tiny. Cute as a button each was, but we were after larger players. Finally, with a Chernobyl ant, Mike got several good fish but couldn't convince the other two to try them. The wind was up and casting a dry fly was quite difficult, so Barb went back to nymphs, while Mary resorted to wet flies. The fishing certainly didn't measure up to that of previous days, but we did the best we could.
The folks at Tangle River Inn reserved our regular table for us and fed us royally. The buffets they offer are exceptional, and it's sometimes hard to figure out how they do it in such a remote area.
All in all the trip was terrific! There was lots of fish & lots of learning, which grayling always provide. We'll definitely be going back in 2014. Come on along!