The Journey to Becoming an Alaskan Fishing Guide

In the early mornings, before the suburban sounds of Needham, Massachusetts awoke, a young lad carrying a bow hunted backyard birds secretly pretending they were grizzly, and that he, an Alaskan guide.

From the young age of 12, Mark Miller knew he’d somehow reach The Last Frontier, and that his dream of becoming a real Alaskan fishing and hunting guide would someday become reality. After graduating from Paul Smiths College with a major in forestry, Mark made the drive from Massachusetts to Alaska at the age of nineteen. He quickly got his first job as an assistant Alaska fishing guide, and at twenty-one, earned his pilot’s license. Now with more than forty years experience flying Alaska’s wild, and over 15,000 hours of flying time, Mark chuckles with amusement when his son, Luke Miller, gets courted by Reality TV shows such as Flying Wild Alaska.

Upon first arriving in Alaska, Mark worked for Alaskan pioneer and fishing guide Bob Curtis, and his wife Gayle, then owners and creators of the now famous, Tikchik Lake Lodge. It’s there that Mark met his wife Judi, and after two summers working at Tikchick, set off on their own, pitching a tent midway on the Talachulitna River, while building what would eventually become Talaheim Lodge.

That was 1974, the same year Mark met Trapper Jim.

Talachulitna River's only resident at that time, Trapper Jim lived a meager existence, in a log cabin he afforded by trapping and selling beaver and marten furs.

But Trapper Jim wasn't your stereotypical "lone trapper." During Jim’s bachelor years, Jim ran an ad in the Anchorage Times advertising companionship in the great outdoors: any woman interested in living in remote Alaska, please contact me ASAP! 

Receiving lots of interest, Jim traveled to Oregon and San Francisco seeking out his perfect mate. A few potentials even flew out to visit, but those details are reserved for stories told around Talaheim's dinner table.

Upon first meeting Mark and Judi, Jim brought them to a piece of land that he thought would be perfect for an Alaskan fishing lodge. And Jim was right. Forty years later Talaheim Lodge still thrives on that same property, just a few bends up river from Trapper Jim's original log cabin.

Mark would return the favor a couple years later by introducing Jim to the young girl that lived fifteen miles away, on Seven Mile Lake. Jolayne and Jim married, but only after a courtship that belongs in a Hollywood romance.

Today, Jim's meager log cabin has morphed into a log mansion, and his talent for woodworking extends far past carpentry. Using burls from local trees, Jim spends his summers carving intricate bowls which he then sells to fishermen and floaters.

Trapper Jim was Talaheim's first employee, setting the standard for all our future fishing guides to come. According to Mark, Jim is the powerful combination of our current guides, Scott and Mason, as well as the soil in which we exist—a true Alaskan spirit. After returning from a day of fishing with Jim, one of our guests once remarked, "The heck with the salmon, I could sit on a log and listen to Jim's stories all day."

History is all about the people who help shape your journey, and we couldn't be more thankful, or fortunate, for those that have helped build Talaheim into what it is today.