By Kent Danjanovich
When your phone rings and a stranger introduces themselves on the other end and informs you that you have just won a $6,000 fishing trip for two to Alaska, what would be your response? Well, that is exactly what happened a few months ago to Sarah Holcomb of New Mexico.
Sarah’s husband, Seth, was one of the very first Sportsman’s News followers to sign up for the Pro Membership Sweepstakes and he and Sarah decided to sign her up too, giving them twice as many chances each month to draw. The only funny thing is – Sarah was the one that won the prize and the only thing that Seth had to worry about was – would she take him along!
After Sarah calmed down from the original shock, she did indeed inform Seth that he could accompany her on the trip and plans were soon underway. Since neither of them had ever been to Alaska on a fishing trip, their first call was to me to talk about what they would need and exactly where we would be going.
Their flight schedule would be through Seattle, then to Juneau and eventually to Yakutat, Alaska, by the morning of August 18th. So, to take full advantage of their good fortune on the drawing, they decided to arrive a couple of days early into Juneau to see some of the sites and take in as much of Alaska as possible. Hiking to glaciers, glassing for mountain goats, visiting the many shops downtown and sampling fresh seafood would all be part of their pre-fishing adventure, in beautiful Juneau.
On the morning of the 18th, our group of eight (myself, Pro-Staffer Rick Rosenberg, Dr. Jeff Smith and his son Aaron, fishin’ buddies Scott Munson and Ben Baugh and Sarah and Seth) all met up at the Yakutat airport. We were greeted by a representative from Yakutat Coastal Airlines and quickly our luggage was transported to their office, just around the corner from the terminal. Twenty minutes later, we were in the air on our way to the Tsiu.
When we arrived at the lodge, owners, Greg and Darcie Dierick and their staff greeted us and we were then led to the dining area for a hot bowl of soup and a turkey sandwich before heading to our cabins to change into our fishing gear. With winds howling and rain threatening, warmth and protection from the elements were our first priorities. By 2:30 pm, we were loading into our awaiting chariot and our guide, Gabe Darland, helped us all in and we then headed to one of his favorite spots near the end of the Tsiu as it enters the ocean, about two miles from the lodge.
I had brought along plenty of gear for them to use, as Sarah grabbed a spin cast outfit, complete with a shiny Mepp’s spinner and Seth decided to try his luck with one of my St. Croix 8wts, tipped with a black and white Dolly Lama articulating leach.
If my memory is correct, I think Sarah was the first of the group to hook into a shiny, fresh out of the ocean, silver salmon; our targeted species for the trip. Her reel started zinging as she did her very best to bring her high-flying silver to the shoreline. Gabe seized the moment and quickly slid his net under its belly and Sarah’s face was a-glow with excitement. The rest of us soon followed her lead and the next three hours produced fish after fish, an incredible start to our five-day Tsiu River adventure.
Days two and three presented high winds and quite a bit of rain, but it didn’t seem to detour us much. Although the weather hampered the fly fishing side of things a little, spin cast methods continued to do just fine and just about every color of the spectrum seemed to work. Mepp’s, Pixies, Blue Fox’s and even Daredevle’s did the trick and Gabe just kept scooping up silver after silver, filling our fish boxes with beautiful orange/red fillets. And oh by the way, just to let you know how good the silver run was this year, we didn’t keep one fish under 12-pounds for the week.
Now let’s catch up on what we did for the few hours a day when we weren’t on the river, fishing.
First of all, let’s talk about the food. Darcie Dierick is in charge of most everything going on around the cabins and the dining hall. Chef Mike has been around for years and never seems to disappoint with his great creations. Steaks, halibut, salmon, shrimp and ribs adorned the dinner line and hearty soups and sandwiches made to order filled our lunch desires. Bacon and eggs, French toast, pancakes and fresh fruit filled our bellies every morning as well. And oh, the deserts!
Each cabin is designed a little different to accommodate any type of groups, from couples to groups of six if wanted. Each has its own bathroom and space heater and plenty of room to move around. A washer and dryer is available upon request, along with a drying room for your gear and a fly tying room, complete with vice and materials for your use. There is even a small pro shop, complete with flies, lures, accessories and logoed clothing and hats.
Our fourth day found us enjoying partly cloudy skies and lighter winds. Just about every color of Dolly Lama’s and bunny leaches were working and of course, Sarah was still killing them with her spinners. Seth was all smiles as he landed big fish after big fish on the fly and Rick, Jeff, Aaron, Scott and Ben each tried a little of both as the fish just seemed to be flooding the system. Yes, the Tsiu was red hot and we were all lucky to be part of it.
Sadly, the next morning we were saying our goodbyes to the staff and hopping on our flight back to Yakutat. To say Sarah and Seth had experienced a true, trip of a lifetime would definitely be an understatement. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them again on the river someday, in their quest of finding more ‘Silver on the Tsiu’.
As you can tell, Dierick’s Tsiu River Lodge is one of my favorite spots in all of Alaska and if you are looking for possibly the very best silver salmon experience imaginable, give them a call today to talk about all of the possibilities. They fill up fast, as their repeat business is busting at the seams. We will again be including a trip for two in our Pro Membership Sweepstakes for the 2019 season, so it you aren’t a member yet, what are you waiting for? Dierick’s Tsiu River Lodge, 907-784-3625 is their number and you can also check them out on our website or at tsiuriverlodge.com.