CASH IN THOSE CREDIT-CARD MILES and you’re financially halfway to wading among millions of salmon along the Parks Highway in southern Alaska. Fly to Anchorage the last week of August, rent a car, and head north for great river hopping along a 70-mile stretch of the Parks (a.k.a. State Route 3). Bring light camping gear, lots of flies, and an extra rod to replace the one you’ll likely shatter. There will be silvers, chums, sockeyes, humpies, a late king or two, and the errant rainbow.
Forget the advance plan–Three Rivers Fly & Tackle in the town of Wasilla will know the water conditions and quality of the fish run at more than two dozen rivers in the Susitna drainage. Most of your catch will pass right under the bridges of the Parks.
The breakdown below includes prices. Bring a buddy to split the cost, and you can pull off a seven-day trip for $500 each, not including airfare.
TRANSPORT Fly to Anchorage, rent a car, and head north on Route 1, then Route 3. It’s about 250 miles round-trip to Peters Creek, so depending on river hopping, figure about $40 for gas. Bring an Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer, and get the Parks Highway map from alaskaoutdoorjournal.com/maps, or at any gas station in the area.
GETTING STARTED The first town you’ll hit is Wasilla. Stop at Three Rivers Fly & Tackle for supplies and a license, and to learn about conditions. A nonresident, 14-day license is $80, plus $50 if you’re fishing for kings (3riversflyandtackle.com; 907-373-5434). The Alaska Fishing Report will also help you plan. It’s published Thursdays in the Anchorage Daily News, and at adn.com. If you need a bed before you start out, try the Grand View Inn and Suites ($160 per night in August; 907-357-7666; grandviewak.com).
ALONG THE PARKS In good conditions, establish your first base camp at the Susitna Boat Landing to fish Montana or Willow Creeks or the Kashwitna River. There’s camping, snacks, and tackle here (sites start at $10 per night; 888-495-0077; ronsriverboat.com). If you get rained out, recover at the Gigglewood Inn (cabins start at $100 per night; 800-574-2555; gigglewood.com).
Farther north is the town of Talkeetna, another great stopping point. If you want to do a jet-boat trip, Mahay’s Riverboat Services will take you to Clear Creek, where you can catch 100 fish a day ($55 per adult; 800-736-2210; mahaysriverboat.com). While in town, eat at the lively Denali Fairview Inn (907-733-2423; denali-fairview.com).
If rains have trashed local waters, go west along Petersville Road and pitch a tent at the Peters Creek camping area. There are no facilities but it’s ideal for access to Moose, Kroto (Deshka), or Twentymile Creeks. The Forks Roadhouse has lodging ($50 a night; 907-733-1851, also the camping area contact).
ON THE WATER If you’re flyfishing, take two 9-foot, 8- to 9- weight rods and reels with strong drags. Bring dark and bright Woolly Buggers, big nymphs, and eggs. If you’re spinfishing, bring medium to heavy 7- to 8-foot rods and reels with 20- to 30-pound-test line. Lures should include 7/8 ounce (and a few smaller) Wiggle Warts, Mepps Giant Killers, and size 5 Vibrax spinners.