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A few years ago, my wife and I spent a week fishing in northern Alaska, where we enjoyed excellent fishing for king salmon. We returned to Alaska this past July for a week long cruise with Holland America Line (*) on their 1,214 passenger ship, the MS Noordam. Our itinerary began with our July 20 departure from Vancouver, British Columbia. From there we cruised the Inner Passage, stopping in the Alaskan cities of Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau before returning to Vancouver. The cruise line offers passengers numerous shore excursion opportunities on a first come, first served basis. One of these excursions is a fly fishing trip out of Juneau to one of several nearby rivers. My wife and I decided to take this optional trip, which turned out to be delightful.
On the morning we arrived in Juneau, we were met by local fly fishing specialists Dick Carter and Salim Hassan of On The Fly Adventures. They took us to get our licenses and then drove us out to the airport where we boarded a floatplane. It was a nice adventure to fly out over the glaciers and land on a river about 30 minutes away. We chased some bears out of the river as we pulled up to disembark. As we walked along the riverbank through heavy grass we saw where the bears had flattened it out, and bear droppings were everywhere. Carter and Hassan are very familiar with all the rivers they work and with the bears in the particular rivers. The guides know which bears are dangerous and which are not, and they gave us good instructions on how to get along with the bears.
We came to a high bank about eight feet up that overlooked a pool. The pool was protected from the wind, and we saw hundreds of chum and pink salmon. We continued along the bank for about 50 yards before beginning to cast in a stream that was between 25 to 30 feet wide. Our guides supplied us with good hip boots and nice 6 weight graphite rods with straight floating tips. We used only one fly, a type of Clouser minnow with eyes and a totally red body on a #6 hook. The hook was flattened down to be barbless.
In three hours of fishing, my wife and I both caught 15 to 20 salmon. They were about 90 percent pinks and 10 percent chum. By using the barbless hooks we were able to release them all without damage. My wife was not in any way an expert on fly fishing, yet she caught plenty of fish because Carter and Hassan gave her excellent instruction on roll casting, overhead casting, placing the fly to drift and noticing how, when the line quits moving, there is something on the other end.
After many years of fishing around the world, I would say this was one of the most enjoyable days I have ever had. Carter and Hassan are excellent guides. The excursion cost us $269 per person, which included an excellent lunch. I highly recommend it to fellow subscribers. John W. Dickerson.
(Don Causey Note: At present, Holland America line is apparently the only one offering stopover excursions in Alaska specifically for flyfishermen, though others do offer spin tackle trips. One such cruise line is World Explorer Cruises(*).)