It’s not a lie. My family called Mitkof Island home when I was born, but my mother flew to Seattle to have me due to potential blood-type complications.
I never blamed my mother for doing so, but I’ve always felt a little cheated that I couldn’t call myself a native Alaskan. And the reason for that is this: Alaska is just bigger in all ways than anything you’ll encounter in the Lower 48, and for an outdoorsman it offers the greatest risk-to-reward scenario: Its mountains are taller; its salmon are bigger; its bears are more abundant and aggressive; its landscape is never-ending; its storms are relentless; and it requires a good head on your shoulders to get out of the woods and off the water alive. Being from Alaska—the proving grounds—says you already understand this.
When I turned 16, I headed north to work in a salmon cannery and fish on commercial boats. The work was demanding and often scary, but each fall I returned with a sackful of money and stories that blew away the kids who’d flipped burgers or caddied all summer while living under their parents’ rule. I’d manage my money until it was completely blown. Then I’d grab a flight to The Great Land and do it all over.
I liked that boom-and-bust cycle. In that fashion you could throw away what was left of your life and recreate yourself in a three-hour plane flight. It was always going to be all right; it was always going to be interesting and adventurous—if you could just get to Alaska, the ace in the hole.
I live in Montana now and feel fortunate to do so, but I still dream of bigger places, and that urge to desert never left. I have kids and a job and a home now, so leaving for extended periods doesn’t make sense. But just to get out, just to get there for a while, even for a week, keeps me alive.
I may not live in Alaska again, but I’ll visit my old stomping grounds in southeast, where I used to toil with kings and cohos and steelhead and cutthroats. And heading northwest, to the Bristol Bay region in southwest Alaska, also appeals. I’ve been there a few times, to commercial fish and to sport fish, but I only got a taste of what an amazing rainbow trout fishery exists there. So maybe it’s time for you and me to escape for a week, to recreate ourselves in a plane flight, to find adventure and earn those memories that sustain us. You can take a first step toward that goal by checking out our “Alaska Now!” section, on page 56.
If you get to Bristol Bay this year—or anywhere in Alaska for that matter—you may come away feeling the same way that I do: My birth certificate says I was born in Washington, but my gut says I belong to Alaska.
It takes a certain type to pursue muskies with flies, and those types gather in Tennessee each year.
— By Tom Hazelton
Brian Chan knows how to catch big stillwater trout, and his willingness to share that information with the angling community makes him FRR’s Angler of the Year. — By Dana Sturn
DIY Haida Gwaii
On British Columbia’s most remote islands big, under-the-radar steelhead still swim. The challenge is to find them when conditions are prime . . . and before everyone else finds out. — By Greg Thomas
If you are looking for a 30-inch rainbow trout, southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region is the place to be. Fortunately, some of The Great Land’s finest lodges also are found there. We have profiled three of the best—now it’s up to you to book the trip! — By Chris Santella
If you dream big, dream Alaska. — By Greg Thomas
This may be the toughest pack of bonefish on the planet. — By Jim Klug
Sumi-e art; new flies for winter; gear for every trip; fallout from Blackadore Caye; Chris Dombrowski’s Body of Water.
Practical & Useful
Get low—crouch if need be—and catch more trout. — By Dave Hughes
Lake Okeechobee and the dead fish downstream. — By Ted Williams
In Wisconsin with a musky tribe, looking for a two-fish day. — By John Geirach
On the cover:
Joe Golcz (left) and guide Lucky Porter celebrate Golcz’s first-ever musky on his first day ever fishing for them. The fish measured more than 40 inches long and was taken in the fall on Wisconsin’s Chippewa River. Photo By Tosh Brown.