During June 22nd through the 25th, PHWFF Anchorage traveled to Tangle Lakes, approximately 300 miles northeast of Anchorage to target grayling and Lake Trout.  Numerous individuals, businesses, and organizations supported this trip including Bob Dobransky, Mendeltna Lodge, Tangle River Inn, the Bureau of Land Management in Glennallen and Fairbanks, and Wrangle Institute for Science and Environment (WISE) as well as many dedicated PHWFF volunteers.  Francesca Popp-Wright, a participant on the trip, wrote about her trip experience and graciously agreed to share them with everyone.

Vast, wide-open beauty is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Tangle Lakes Alaska.

Pristine Waters of the Delta River

Pristine Waters of the Delta River

I had my first opportunity to go on the Project Healing Waters Alaska trip in June 2017. Originally timing wasn’t going to work out to be able to participate in the trip, but the stars aligned and I was selected along with my husband – also a PHW Alaska participant. Matter of fact, I was one of the 10 veterans selected for the trip. The participants hailed from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Wasilla, Alaska, as well as Colorado Springs, Colo.

I had heard tales of how great the fishing is at Tangle Lakes, but never thought much of it … that was until I got to experience it for myself.

My husband, Jason, and I volunteered to be one of the drivers for the trip. We had the honor of taking with us the two PHW Colorado Springs participants – Terry, aka Gunny, and Andy. Gunny said he had not been to Alaska before, while Andy said he grew up in Juneau. During the 300 mile drive to the lakes, I was able to give a little background information on a few sites in along the way. We stopped midway to have lunch at Mendeltna Lodge, where Mable made us wonderful pizzas.

We were welcomed with a gorgeous rainbow upon arriving at Tangle River Inn, our lodging for the weekend. We checked in and were ready to go fishing. We hit the middle Tangle River after dinner and I think we all had success, despite the swarm of bugs and mosquitos. Some folks, including myself, were hooking grayling the second the fly hit the water. I even managed to get a few 12-plus inchers. What a rush.

I looked forward to see what the next day brought me. We were up early and, after a yummy blueberry pancake breakfast and went to the boat launch to try our luck on the north lake. Mike, Bureau of Land Management Glennallen and former PHW Alaska participant, was our boat driver and fishing buddy for the day. Also fishing with us were Cindi and Dale, our PHW Alaska “volunteer fishing buddies.” Mike took us to a prime location on the lake. We walked a little ways up the shoreline and readied our lines by 9 a.m.

Bam! Fish on … the second the fly line touched the water. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Four of us had a fish on at one time. The grayling were hungry for the wet and dry flies we were using. The fishing was hot that day. There was a slight overcast and the occasional sprinkles, but that didn’t stop us.

Francesca landing a grayling

Francesca landing a grayling

I lost count of how many grayling I caught, and released, after about five. I know I landed several 15-16 inches beauties. Some of the fish had a rainbow of colors on them, while others had a bright turquois tail. There were several that got away, I think it was because I was chasing that 18-inch or larger trophy fish. The day wrapped about 4 p.m. for me and it turned out to be an early night.

Colorful Grayling

Colorful Grayling

I ended up getting skunked, with the exception of landing one grayling on the third day of fishing. The weather went from sunny and nice to overcast and extremely windy. I tried my luck on the south lake, even throwing a few cast for lake trout over the area where there is an ancient waterfall. Zilch-O! I quickly learned that casting in to the wind, that didn’t want to cooperate, was not fun. I had a great time despite not having much luck that day with being able to holler, “Fish on,” and do my happy fish dance. I think the wrap up cook out/pot luck along with the campfire made for a wonderful ending to an outstanding trip. I look forward to going back to Tangle Lakes again.