Patrick Donelson, owner and main guide, has over 50 years of fishing experience throughout the northwest and has fished the streams of the Mat-Su Valley for the past 31 years. We hope you will join us for an exciting Alaska fishing adventure and allow us to put that experience to work for you!
My Fish Story…
An Early Start
My fishing adventures began when I was only 4 years old when my father began taking me trout fishing in the Sierra mountains of California. One of the earliest memories I have of fishing is of one of those cold 4 AM morning trips where my dad peeled me out of the rack and we climbed in the car while it was still dark. We drove for what seemed like forever and when we arrived the first morning light was barely visible over the mountains that surrounded us. The air was crisp and filled with the scent of pine trees. I still remember the way I could see my breath and the way the steam hovered just above the twisty windy form of the river beneath as it snaked it’s way across the large meadow. We took off walking and it seemed to my little legs like we had gone miles. I remember complaining because my fingers were numb, and pelting my dad with questions like why the spot we just passed wasn’t good enough and why we couldn’t fish there instead. He just smiled and kept on walking and I soon understood why. Before long were standing next to one of my dad’s favorite fishing holes.
On the nights before those childhood fishing trips I remember being so excited that I couldn’t sleep because of the excitement and anticipation of being able get out and go out fishing with my dad. I was so excited because I knew that I would finally be able use a big fishing pole just like him, and that I would actually be allowed to touch and use all of those cool lures and colorful things he kept secured away in his tackle box. From that time on in my life I jumped at any chance I got to go fishing, especially if it was with my dad.
I Was Hooked on Fishing
I grew up in a medium sized city, and we couldn’t always go the the mountains where I got my start fishing, so I had to find places around the city to fish. By the time I was 8 or 10 years old I would get myself up at 4:00 AM on Saturday mornings and ride my bicycle 10 miles across the city to Howarth Park Reservoir to be there in time for the morning bite. Often I couldn’t find anyone else crazy enough to get up and to go with, so I would go by myself. I used to love fishing for trout with dry flies trailing behind a clear slip bobber on the glassy calm lake. You could fill up the bobber half way with water and cast it a country mile and cover lots of water. A slow retrieve with the right fly was deadly on the rainbows that were stocked in that reservoir.
I Couldn’t Get Enough
I was constantly getting in trouble for coming home way too late after dark, which always made my mother furious. She could never seem to understand why I just had to get up so early or stay so late just to fish that first or last 15 minutes of light as it rose or vanished off the water. I tried to explain to the best of my ability why I just had to do it, but nothing I said seem to help. As a kid, I was constantly baffled by the fact that my mother could never seem to gain the same appreciation for fishing as I had. I thought everyone just knew and understood…
Growing up my favorite shows were fishing shows, but back then there were only a few. I especially liked “Championship Fishing TV Series with Virgil Ward”. It was one of those early fishing shows when the guy travels all over the country getting paid to catch fish. I remember thinking that Virgil was so cool and that he had one of the best jobs in the world. He was always using the coolest gear like fancy waders, a fishing vest perfectly adorned with all kinds of awesome gidgets and gadgets like snippers, hemostats, and colorful flies, and he always wore those really cool special sunglasses that allowed him to see into the water. Most of all, it seemed like he always caught MONSTER fish!
The Dream of Fishing Alaska Salmon
It seemed like every other T.V. fishing show that I watched someone was fishing somewhere in Alaska and they were always catching big, bright, shiny salmon or lunker rainbow trout. But Virgil was my favorite, and he always made it look so easy. He would set the hook on a huge fish, fight it right up to the boat or place where they were standing, he would grab it by the tail, remove the hook, and then hold it up for a picture just before reviving it and releasing it back into the water. One day I remember yelling out loud saying, “Virgil why are you gonna release that huge fish!” I could never understand why a guy would let something that big go. The largest fish I had caught up to that time in my life were 10-14 inch trout, bluegills, and suckers. I remember thinking back then that Alaska had to be the ultimate fishing paradise. I thought if I could ever go there to fish someday, it would be the ultimate dream come true.
In those days I spent many hours fishing in the small creek that ran through our neighborhood. It was in the middle of Santa Rosa, California, which is just north of San Francisco. Back then, this little creek was host to small numbers of blue gills, suckers and an occasional rainbow trout. It wasn’t much but I considered it my mission to find them and catch everyone of them. I remember pretending that I was on TV like Virgil Ward catching big Alaska salmon or trout. I remember saying out loud to the imaginary camera, “Now Pat is catching a world record salmon”, while all the while I was really only reeling in a 4″ blue gill. I would pretend to hold the fish up for the camera and I would narrate just like Virgil. As a 10 year old boy my imaginations were filled with dreams of one day going to Alaska to catching a big fish like those guys on T.V. Little did I know that one day my dreams would come true.
Dreams Do Come True
18 years later, on a beautiful sunny day, I found myself standing in a popular Alaska salmon stream near my home and I was enjoying a day of catch and release fishing for king salmon. I was using my 8 wt Orvis fly rod and I was doing my best to catch enough fish to wear out the drag on my fly reel. My family and I were enjoying a weekend campout at Montana Creek, which is about 100 miles north of Anchorage, where I was living at the time. It never occurred to me that I was doing something I had dreamed of as a child. I had long forgotten all of those childhood memories, and at the time, I had no recollection of them at all.
In my mind, I was simply out enjoying doing what I love to do, fishing. I was catching and releasing Chinook salmon on a fly rod just for fun; what could be cooler than that? I was wearing my cool chest waders and my fishing vest was adorned with all kinds of gidgets and gadgets like hemostats, snippers, and colorful flies. I was wearing my really cool special sunglasses that allowed me to see into the water. Even with all that, I still did not make any conscious connection back to the memories of those days in the muddy little creek in California when I used to pretend to be fishing in Alaska.
That day, I hooked and caught several king salmon ranging from 30-50 pounds. Each time I played one of them out, I would grab them by the tail, removed the hook, and then turn them around so my wife could take record the event on our Sony Hi 8 video camera. Each time I would smile for the camera, carefully revive the fish, and then released them back into the river.
Suddenly It Happened
Then, suddenly, as I pushed the tail of one of those big fish sending it on it’s way back into the into the river, the realization came over me that I was doing exactly what I had dreamed of doing when I was only 10 years old in California. I was blown away and instantly flooded with emotion as all of those childhood dreams and experiences came rushing into my mind and for the first time since moving to Alaska I realized what had happened. In that moment a strange sense of destiny came over me and I heard the internal voice of the Lord speak to me and He said, “See Pat, from the time you were a little boy, I was preparing you for what I wanted you to do. I have prepared you to live in this land and to love this land.” That was an amazing revelation to me of the process and purpose of God in my life. It’s one I can never forget.
I thought to myself, “This is so ironic!” Most of my younger life, before I had a relationship with the Lord, I was convinced that God was mean and He wanted to take away everything that was fun. I thought that walking with Him would be horribly boring and dull. I didn’t want anything to do with God, and in fact spent several years trying to run away from Him. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that I discovered how wrong I had been. Thats when I turned my life over to Him and began to develop a real relationship with Him. I learned He is good, and from that time on I loved Him and walked with Him with all my heart. However, even after walking with Him for several years, I didn’t see what happened that day on the river coming. It caught me totally off guard in the most unusual and beautiful way.
His Plans For Me
When the realization hit me that God had planned this for me all along, I stood paralyzed thigh deep in the river seized by emotion and wept. It was an overwhelming feeling to realize that God not only loved me, but He also had planned a good future for me and had in fact been preparing me for my life in Alaska. That day Psalm 139:16 became real to me. It declares that “all the days The Lord planned for me were written in His book before one of them came to be!” He knew what I was going to be doing before I was ever born and wired me for it from the beginning. I realized that day that the steps of a righteous man really are directed by the Lord, and that He really does give us the desires of our heart. WOW!
I saw the picture of myself plodding along in life, trying to follow God’s plan for me as best I could, when He just snuck up behind me and ambushed me with His goodness, kindness, and love. Without me even being aware of it, The Lord had directed my steps and had caused me to walk right into the very things I had dreams of doing as a child. He knew all along He was going to do it and He wanted me to experience things that make me the happiest and the most fulfilled in life. At that moment I could see more clearly than ever that He created me for a purpose and He knows exactly what causes my heart to soar. John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us abundant life and I suddenly had a whole new insight into what that means. What a day!
When We Follow
When I chose to follow the Lord I gave my whole life and future to Him. Eventually I was led to become a minister. It was that decision that eventually opened up the opportunity for my family and I to move to Alaska. We came to Alaska in 1989 when I accepted a ministry position in Anchorage to be a youth pastor. I thought I was simply obeying God, but I had no idea that by following Him I would be on a head on collision with my best childhood dreams!
I am so thankful to Jesus Christ for rescuing me from the destructive life that I was living and the wrong direction that I was heading. I am thankful that He forgives me and washes away all the guilt, shame, and sin in my life. I am thankful that all those years ago He accepted me and set me on a good path. That path led me here to Alaska where I am privileged to enjoy some of the best of His creation as well as all of the blessings of living life with Him. I pray that you too can experience a relationship with the Lord and have the joy of learning about the great things He has prepared ahead of time for you in your life. I pray that you discover that there is a plan and a purpose for you on this earth. Having a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is how you discover it.
If you would like to go fishing in Alaska or learn more about a relationship with the Lord please contact me anytime. 907-357-0131.