Alaska adventure • Whittling away at my life list
Published: September 17, 2012 03:18PM
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:02PM
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Brett and a sockeye.

Judd Lake, Alaska • I’ve been an outdoors writer at The Salt Lake Tribune for more than 22 years and yet I cannot find words to describe my fishing experiences from the past two days. Saturday I crossed three species — sockeye salmon, silver salmon and Dolly Varden — off my life list.

How many times in a life can an angler have a day like that?

My buddy Reed Sherman captured some stellar images of the Northern Lights overnight.

My internal memory card is nearing its limit after Sunday. Our ride to the river was a helicopter that lifted us a drainage away.

Dropping into our landing zone — a spot barely large enough for two anglers to stand — I spotted a huge school of sockeye salmon and large dark spots mixed among them.

It wasn’t long before the five of us hooked those dark spots — Dolly Varden and rainbow trout — and some of the sockeye as well.

Once fishing slowed down to one-per-four casts the others moved up the river and left me alone. I was able to focus on fishing the entire run. The trick is running the bead egg through the slough of salmon and picking off the Dollies and rainbows that are feeding on the eggs the sockeye are dropping.

I finally hit a spot no one had been able to reach and was instantly rewarded. Actually, I thought it was a sockeye at first because it was dead weight and when it finally realized it was hooked the fish went on a deep run. When I was finally able to see the fish I was pleased to see it was a Dolly. Another few minutes and I landed the fish we estimated at 26 inches and 5 pounds. What a thrill. The fish I had always dreamed of catching.

We spent the entire day on the creek and landed dozens more Dollies, some rainbows over 20 inches and some the sockeye. Back at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge we soaked in the wood-fired hot tub and prepared for another day of fishing interior Alaska.