|First look at Denali|
But it wasn't to be this day--the reel seat on my 4-weight had somehow worked itself free during transit, and I was left with my tenkara rod, which, while perfectly functional most days, didn't seem to have the distance I needed to separate me from the educated grayling on this heavily fished stretch of the Delta Clearwater River. My two counterparts, John Nichols and his son, Ted, were fishing with spinning gear and sporting the same results. In fact, when we later met another group of anglers who did the same float we did, we learned we'd all gotten skunked.
|The Delta Clearwater River|
And I didn't mind a bit. Around every bend of the spring creek, something new waited to greet me. Golden birch trees and skinny black spruce guarded the river. Some of the most impressive--and some of the most humble--backwoods cabins rested in the timber along the water, giving the setting a summer-camp-like atmosphere, despite the full onset of autumn in the north country. Now and then, through the clouds and the chill of early September, I could see Denali.
I'd been to southeast Alaska a number of times--fly fishing the rainforest might be my favorite little corner of the craft. But I'd never been to Alaska's "interior," so that morning, as we readied the car for a day on the water, I got my first look at the storied peak, the tallest in North America at well over 20,000 feet.
Then, throughout the day, as clouds parted, we'd catch glimpses of the mountain which, more often than not, is shrouded in snow clouds no matter the time of year. The view across the flat water of the river--imagine transporting the upper Henry's Fork to the base of Denali and you kind of get an idea of how impressive it really is--never disappointed. Casting line to tight-lipped fish while gazing at the imposing mountain well off in the distance makes a guy feel pretty damned insignificant. It's an experience I'll never forget.
When the icy, transparent Clearwater met up with the muddy, glacial Tanana a few miles downstream, the fishing ended entirely, but the raw scenery in this austere place just kept spitting out the hits. The Tanana never runs clear--it's all glacial meltwater and it runs the color of an iced latte into the mighty Yukon a few hundred miles downstream.
|Shrouded in clouds.|
The whole time, Denali stood like a sentinel above our little day-long adventure. Off in the distance, sometimes whole, other times only partially revealed, the mountain ... persisted.
With that for wallpaper, I'd be perfectly happy with more fishless days.