If you've ever dreamed of heading out to the wilderness, you're not alone. And while it may not be the same as living off the land, fly fishing in Alaska can be an exciting experience!
Movies like Mr. Fantastic and Into the Wild play on this feeling of wanting to leave modern society to discover a new frontier among the trees.
However, if you want to take part in that grand adventure, there are some things you should know before you get started.
Alaska: The Last Frontier
Alaska is known the world over for its fly fishing opportunities, but also for the land itself. The state joined the U.S. in 1959, and since then has served as one of the nation's great national treasures.
The state is so big that it's divided into five parts, and features wildlife refuges, national monuments, and national preserves.
All this is to say that if you can make the journey, fly fishing in Alaska can be as beautiful as it is memorable (and if you're a beginner, you can check out the basics on our site).
If you're looking for reasons to go fly fishing in Alaska, you barely need to look further than its stunning landscapes.
Rivers, forests, mountain ranges, bays, fjords, coastlines, and the high arctic plains make the state's geography as diverse as your imagination.
It's not a question of whether you'll find fish — the only question is what kind of fish you want.
Fly fishing In Alaska
What kind of fish you find while fly fishing in Alaska largely comes down to where you are. Different seasons attract different species, and different locations produce different outcomes.
By doing careful research, you can avoid disappointment by not finding your favorite one.
If you're looking for this sought-after fish, head on over to the gorgeous Kenai Peninsula!
According to Alaskan Fishing Adventures, more King Salmon have been caught there than in all other parts of Alaska combined. Sometimes weighing up to 70 pounds, this fish is also sometimes referred to as "Chinook Salmon."
According to Langdon Cook from National Geographic, they come out of their deep-sea pastures during the spring every year and return to their childhood homes to spawn.
And every year, fly fishing enthusiasts and people from salmon country themselves are waiting for them.
Another popular fish to find is rainbow trout. This fish is really only native to the rivers of North America, but has been introduced all over the world.
And while this fish averages about 8 pounds, it can grow up to 53 pounds!
They prefer cool, clear streams, lakes, and rivers. However, some will occasionally make their way to the sea, and these are known as steelheads.
According to CBC, steelheads could be best described as "a trout that behaves like a salmon."
Steelheads are also anadromous, meaning they migrate up rivers from the sea to spawn (like salmon). However, their counterparts, rainbow trout, prefer to stay in the freshwater.
There is massive confusion about whether or not steelheads are trout or salmon.
Some scientists call this fish closer to a salmon biologically, but the top Google search returns for "Steelhead" are two Wikipedia pages, the first titled, "Rainbow trout" and the second titled, "Steelhead trout." So prevailing wisdom has not yet caught up to science when it comes to the steelhead.
After you've done a little homework on the fish you want to find, there are some other things you'll want to think about before you leap into the great unknown.
If you don’t live in Alaska, here are some things to think about while planning your fly fishing adventure!
As you might expect, you can’t just fish whatever you want whenever you want. You'll need to brush up on the regulations of your destination (and get a license). And your friend's awesome story of what they did while fly fishing in Alaska does NOT count as research!
The information you need will be on the Alaskan government's website. That is where you can find various fishing regulations for Northern, Southwest, Southcentral, and Southeast Alaska, as well as regulations that apply statewide.
One tip that you can apply anywhere is to watch out for bears, who like fish as much as you do. Upon successfully catching a fish, you should bleed it into the water, lest the blood get on the ground or your clothes and attract bears. This practice has the added benefit of making the fish meat better.
You’re likely not going to head up to Alaska for a day or two of fly fishing, so you’ll need a place to stay!
Luckily, Alaska has a whole hospitality industry dedicated to putting you up while you enjoy your adventure. Depending on what you need (location, guidance, equipment, etc.) you can find the right lodge for you.
The Yakutat Lodge, for instance, provides access to the Wild Gulf Coast, the Elias Range, and North America's largest glaciers. These packages can be a great choice for beginners, who can receive fly fishing guidance from licensed professionals.
And if you're more experienced and just need a place to stay, á la carte options are available, so you don't purchase more than you need.
You can always find fish in Alaska, year-round. But if you're angling for one in particular, location is almost as crucial as season.
Picking a good location can mean where a particular fish is at, but also it means choosing the environment you feel more comfortable in. Choosing a fish that's not as popular may mean you don't have to deal with hordes of tourists.
Choosing a different season to visit Alaska might mean you don't have to compete with bears for your lunch.
Picking your location is about the fish you're looking for, the season you're in, and the experience you want to have fly fishing in Alaska.
Choosing your gear is essential to your Alaskan adventure! Remember that 70-pound king salmon? You don't want to attack that thing with the wrong rod or you might be in big trouble.
There is an art to getting the right tools for the right job, and here are a few suggestions:
Just because some equipment works for someone else does not mean it will work for you. Be as specific as possible to find the equipment you're best suited for. Factors include:
By tailoring your search to exactly what you need for what you want to do, you'll mitigate hassle and frustration with tools that don't do the job.
Fly Fishing Rods
One of the best tactics when figuring out what you need is to talk to a fishing professional. You can find knowledgeable employees at brick-and-mortar shops where you purchase your rods and reels.
And if you purchase a sweet package at one of the many lodges available in Alaska, the guides will be able to give you the best equipment for what you'd like to accomplish.
For example, if you're trying to nab a salmon, you might consider the UglyStik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod.
- Perfect lengths and actions for Salmon and Steelhead fishing
- Ugly stik clear tip design delivers extra strength right where you need it
- Ugly Tech construction with added graphite for lighter weight and increased sensitivity
This rod is rated 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon. The consensus among reviews is that this rod offers not a lot to complain about, and some customers appreciate the handle, which is a bit longer than other rods.
Ugly Tech touts this rod's construction with added graphite for lighter weight and increased sensitivity. One customer even claimed to catch a 30-pound salmon with this rod, so you'll likely be in good hands.
And if you're still having trouble picking a rod, check out this video!
- LIGHTWEIGHT POLYCARBONATE FRAME: YOU WILL FORGET YOU ARE WEARING THEM In the middle of an adventure you cannot let heavy...
- UV 400 MIRROR FLASH COATING The lenses are mirror flash coated. Which not only limits the amount of light that your eyes are...
- STRESS RESISTANT O MATTER FRAMES An active lifestyle means that your sunglasses will have to be tough and rugged enough to...
Though rods are important, you won't want to forget the accessories that can really make the difference when you're fly fishing in Alaska, like (polarized) sunglasses and waders.
- ATTENTION: Please confirm your size before purchasing. If your socks are too thick or your feet are wide, please choose one...
- 100%WATERPROOF： Our PVC chest waders are made of 70-density double-layer PVC fabric, and the boots are seamed with waders...
- NON-SLIP SOLE: Geometric texture outsole design, effectually increasing the area with ground, more antiskid than other shoes.
With the reflection of the water, it can even be a hazard not to have a clear field of vision, and quality waders will keep you comfortable and dry during long hours of fishing.
What You'll Gain From Fly Fishing
Ultimately, fly fishing in Alaska can be a blast, but it can easily go terribly wrong without planning. From planning for the weather to following regulations, it is vital that you plan out your trip as carefully as you can.
At best, poor planning can lead to inconveniences and misadventures. At worst, it can lead to serious bodily harm and/or trouble with the law. There's a reason that "Be prepared" is the Boy Scouts' motto.
If you do it correctly, fly fishing in Alaska can yield you life-changing experiences that you'll want to repeat again and again, and the beauty of Alaska hardly needs to be explained. You'll come back from your trips with greater respect for nature, some new fishing skills, and some crazy stories to share with family and friends.
Good luck on your voyage to The Last Frontier!
Have you had experience fly fishing in Alaska? Tell us about it in the comment section!