Alaska Journal: Part 1
If you've ever wanted to visit Alaska, but haven't wanted to sell the farm to do it, we've got the trip for you.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Alaska, but haven’t wanted to sell the farm to do it, we’ve got the trip for you. Field & Stream’s Editor Slaton White has been keeping a journal of his summer salmon fishing trek through Alaska’s bear infested wilds. Below you’ll find his first journal entry and info on how to set up your own trip exclusively here at Field & Stream Online.
For the next five days we’ll be posting a new journal entry from Slaton. Keep checking back as the adventure continues. And, don’t miss the photo gallery which will updated daily.
First Entry — August 28, 2001
You know you’re in fishing country when you’re waiting to pick up your bags at the Anchorage airport. Gear bags big and small, assorted tackle bags, guns, and backpacks come out the door and move down the conveyor belt past a long line of anglers two to three deep. They crowd close, eager to put the city and a long cramped flight behind. Some are booked into expensive, posh lodges; others look forward to week-long fly-in float trips. Another group stands there with rental car contracts in hand, cabin reservations in pocket.
There are many ways to tackle Alaska’s fabled fishing, but to me, the ultimate way to go is via a truck camper. It combines the best of all worlds–complete freedom to travel where you want (especially valuable considering the vagaries of Alaska’s weather and the exact timing of the salmon runs) and the ability to set up camp along a good-looking stretch of water that suddenly strikes your fancy. Peter Mathiesen (executive producer of Field & Stream Radio and a veteran Alaska angler) and I spent a week chasing salmon while living out of a Lance Camper mounted on a Chevy Duramax diesel pickup.
The RV Factor
The Lance Slideout camper (model 1061) we used was a top-of-the-line model with a full galley (three-burner gas stove and microwave oven), large refrigerator/freezer, and a marine toilet/shower. The slide-out dining area (activated by an electric motor) was a great option that gave us plenty of interior room in which to stretch out. Sleeping quarters above the cab of the truck consisted of a pair of firm twin mattresses. Morning back aches, so common when sleeping on thin pads on the ground, were completely eliminated. The table can convert to a bed if needed; we used it for meals as well as a fly tying and gear prep station.
Given the size of the 1061, you might suppose that the camper would offer a great deal of wind resistance. Not so. Lance designed the unit to keep overall height to a minimum. The dry weight of the 1061 is also very good, less than 3,000 pounds. Lower overall height and less weight translate into better handling performance on the road. In fact, the handling performance was so good that at times Peter and I forgot there was a camper attached to the truck. (For more information on the Lance Model 1061 Slideout, go to www.lancecamper.com; for general information on RV use, go to www.RVIA.com).
The camper was mounted to a 2001 Chevy Silverado 3500 four-wheel-drive dualie extended cab diesel pickup. The Duramax 6.6-liter V8 engine had plenty of torque when moving from a dead stop as well as plenty of power for passing. Best of all, it¿¿s quiet. At full throttle, Peter and I could talk without raising our voices. On the highway, the truck averaged about 14 mpg; in 4wd, mileage was still acceptable, around 11 mpg. This is a solid package perfectly designed to handle a camper.
Blue skies are days to be treasured, as is a dday in which you can see Denali… visit photo gallery for more.Where to Go? Alaska is so big that first-time anglers who want drive-in fishing are stunned when they finally look at a map and size up the fishing possibilities. Should you head south to the Kenai? North along the big Susitna? East over the Glen Highway to the Copper River? Unlike the Lower 48, there is good fishing to be found along the roads in Alaska. And, it’s public!
All you need to do is buy a good map and head out. The DeLorme Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer is a great place to start (www.delorme.com). Once in Alaska, you can also pick up copies of the Parks Highway maps, available at sporting goods stores. For this trip, we used Peter’s well-creased “Anchorage to Fairbanks via Denali” park map.
Even for the well-mapped, the potential fishing opportunities are staggering. We decided that the Kenai peninsula would be too crowded, so we headed north. Highway 3 to Denali is crisscrossed with creeks and rivers, all potential places to fish. But which stream? Moose Creek? Willow Creek? Kashwitna River? Sheep Creek?
We needed input, so we stopped at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle Shop in Wasilla to buy some tackle and ask about fishing. The clerk told us that Montana Creek was fishing real good.
A good sign at the 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle Shop…visit photo gallery for more”Pinks and chums are in there,” he said.
“Silvers?” Peter asked.
“Yes, they’re in as well.”
So we continued north. We turned right at the sign “Montana Creek Road,” drove about half a mile on gravel and turned left into a pull-out beside the creek.
“We’re here, buddy.” Peter said, jumping out from behind the wheel. He grabbed a pair of polarized sunglasses and stared out into the stream.
“See? Pinks and chums. There have to be good silvers in here as well.” Then he stretched and said, “Can you believe it? We’re just 2 hours from Anchorage. Two hours! We got fish, a warm, dry place to sleep, and only a couple of other anglers around us. Life is good!”
Check back tomorrow for Slaton’s second entry and more Alaska photos!