Jul 31, 2014

TAL ON TAL

Talaheim lodge
There's no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I
Pink Floyd

Okay, David Gulmore was singing about planes, but it applies the same to my feeling as a helicopter takes off leaving me on a small gravel bar on the Taluchulitna. I had the chance to experience the Talaheim lodge on the Talachulitna river thanks to a friend who had been their previously. The "Tal" lies about one hour by small plane northwest from Anchorage. The location requires a shorter journey compared to rivers in the Bristol bay drainage yet a similar atmosphere of remoteness. The owner of the Talaheim lodge, Mark employs a staff who strive to provide to the needs of all the guests. You can't help leaving without feeling spoiled. Guides are first rate and professional. We had the pleasure of the company of Scott, Mason and "Doc" who lead us each day in the pursuit of Kings. I couldn't ask for a better trio of guides who definitely excel at flyfishing the area but are equally adept at using gear if that is your preference, not that there's anything wrong with that. Each day begins with a hearty breakfast concluding with a discussion regarding the possible fishing options and split up according to preferences. Our purpose was to swing for Kings but the trout fishery itself is equally impressive as evidenced by the dozens of "bycatch" trout that I landed on King flies during the week. The trout could definitely be described as fat and frisky, and I spent a better part of a day skating mouse patterns for 16-20 inch leopards. I'm told that the Silver Salmon season is not to be missed as well.
Talaheim lodge
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies

After breakfast, we took off in one of two helicopters to our preordained destinations. The majority of the fishing is spent on the Talachulitna or its tribs but can extend to other rivers depending on conditions. The Tal is a small to medium sized river that sets up as if it were designed by an engineer with a spey rod in hand. After our drop off, the guides inflated 2-3 person kayaks that we paddled downstream to the next run. The river float was a value added to the overall enjoyment of the trip. None of the water was particularly technical and those with less river experience were paired with the guide. Though the run this year did not allow keeping any fish, we all landed KIngs during the week along with grayling and the aforementioned trout. At the end of the day, a short helicopter ride with views of the nearby mountain range and occasionally Denali would return us to the lodge. After a quick hot shower in 2-4 person cabins with heater, I would return to the main lodge for a frosty beer from a keg or glass of wine to share fishing lies and exaggerations. Dinner each night was delicious and an opportunity to sit around a table and enjoy the company of friends and staff before retiring to our cabins and a warm comfortable bed.

Charlie reels in a King
I really appreciated that the lodge and its staff really went out of their way to accommodate our preferences whether affecting the choice of sodas in the cabin fridge, our next day's lunch, our preferred type of water to fish, or techniques for catching fish. I would not be guilty of hyperbole by suggesting that the staff attends to every detail. Their operations are one of the few that I've experienced that are a truly personalized for each guest. The Tal is a beautiful river with all the runs of salmon and a healthy resident population of trout and grayling and beautiful backdrops around each bend.  Pressure on the Tal is shared by float trips that for some reason seem to originate from Northern Europe. Fortunately, the river cannot be accessed from jet boat travel from downstream leaving the river well spaced between fishing parties. In fact, at least half of my days on the river, no other fishermen were seen.

There's no sensation to compare with this

If you want to be pampered in style without being sheltered from all the beauty that Alaska has to offer then this is the trip for you regardless of fishing preferences or experience. A few of our party had little to no experience with spey rods much less using them to catch Kings but were successful. My only criticism would be that this is not the trip to lose any weight or get any work done. But I'm willing to suffer in silence remembering fish caught, epic scenery, and laughs shared.


Gorge Fly Shop Contributor 
Charlie Chambers



Talaheim's Alaska Fishing Lodge: Marketing Video



"Fly Fish the World with Us"




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