Photos and Story: A DIY Trip for Alaskan Chrome

Written by: Mario Guel

The author fulfilled his Alaskan dream with a little help from his Instagram friends.
Photos by Mario Guel

Since I was a child, I have dreamed of visiting Alaska. When I was six years old, in 1986, I played a video game called, “King Salmon,” in which you’d troll on the Kenai River and catch giant king salmon—some over 100 pounds! I loved it. Then in 5th grade, I was assigned to do a report on Alaska. Luckily, my neighbors at the time were outdoorsmen who had a lot of information on the 49th state: fishing brochures, books, fishing books, and tons of pictures. I got an A+ on my report.

Although this Alaskan itch started during my childhood, it always seemed just a bit out of reach.

Some of the joys of Alaska fishing have nothing to do with fish.

Fast forward many years and add in my new, profound love for fly fishing. It was time to get myself to the Last Frontier. My goal was to find a friend on social media who could help me out by leading me in the direction of good fishing on the Kenai River. I couldn’t afford a lodge, so I took a DIY approach. Lo and behold, this friend whom I had met only onr Instagram became a brother for life. We traveled the Kenai Peninsula in his van, hitting as much water as we could. We made friends along the way, ending up in power boats, sleeping in parking lots, and even surfing a few couches, too.

Sending another one back to make more.

One of my goals was to land an Alaskan steelhead. My fly-fishing fascination started with steelhead, and I felt there was no better way to cap this trip off than to land some AK chrome. And I did. We were lucky enough to connect with another angler through social media whom I had met while fishing at Pyramid Lake in Nevada. He guides in Alaska and led us into the Promised Land, where we were able to play with some big steelhead.

These fish are so hot, you need to chase them to have any chance of landing them.

I am lucky enough to say that my dreams have come true. I found my it — fly fishing. I went to the place I have admired most in my life. I landed a wild Alaskan steelhead. That’s it. I am good. (Well not really. I still want to land a 30-inch brown.

Could I have done this DIY trip without Instagram? Probably not. The possibilities are endless if we open our minds to them.

Brandon Stickel, who lives in Seward, Alaska, was one of the author’s mentors.

What’s next? Maybe I’ll try a DIY trip to Kamchatka. Does anyone have a couch I can crash on?

Mario Guel lives in the Lost Sierras of Northern California. He has been fly fishing for 5 years and it has literally saved his life. He is an ambassador for Brown Folks Fishing, owns Taco Fly Co., and is a mentor for The Mayfly Project.

Teamwork–in planning and fishing–was vital to the success of the trip. (But don’t grab your rod blank like that.)

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