Ask the Pro's: Bucket List Alaska Fishing Trip

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  • Planning a bucket list fishing trip to Alaska this summer in either July or August. I know I won't be able to fly fish for every species of salmon due to run times. So if you had to pick what is your favorite type of salmon to fly fish for? And what are your other favorite species to target on the fly?

    - Larry

  • There are 5 species of Pacific salmon found in Alaska, and I'd rate them in this order of overall preference: silver (aka, coho), kings (chinook), chums (dog or tiger), pinks (humpy), sockeye (red).

    Why silvers first? Aggressive hits, explosive runs, plentiful, they jump and they readily chase top water flies. Kings are the largest salmon and VERY powerful. The downside is a much lower catch rate and they can be quite picky at times. Chums are highly sought after if you can target them near the salt water where they are still very powerful fighters and quite aggressive. They are plentiful and the second largest salmon, but they deteriorate quickly in freshwater (where most anglers target them) as they morph into spawning mode. Pinks readily take a fly and are a great choice if you enjoy high-volume, fish-after-fish action. They are the smallest species in Alaska, so they are often overlooked for the other 4 species; try using a 6 weight for them for more enjoyable action. Sockeye are generally considered to be the most finicky/picky on the fly.

    Other popular freshwater species to consider: rainbow trout for their aggressive hits and fights, dolly varden (or arctic char) for high volume fishing and stunning spawning coloration, arctic grayling for high volume fishing on light tackle and great dry fly opportunities.

    Rus Schwausch - Head Guide & Owner at Epic Angling & Adventure
  • Larry,

    August is a good time to come to Alaska, fishing is usually pretty good and weather can be pretty good. August will give you a shot at Coho (Silver) salmon and the trout and grayling fishing will be heating up as the month progresses. Are you planning a trip to Anchorage and looking to venture out from there or are you looking for a remote lodge type trip? Bristol Bay will offer fantastic Coho fishing in August, but this is a remote area to get into and will require a lodge. If you want to just venture out from Anchorage, you will have several options, whether you go North or South of Anchorage. August is definitely on the front end of the Coho run for this region and probably coming later in the month would prove more beneficial on the Coho front. With other early salmon runs in the rivers, salmon will be starting to spawn and this will spark up the beginning of our fall trout fishing time.

    Coho are a great salmon to chase with a fly, they are aggressive and willing to play. Trout, Dollies & Grayling are always a treat to chase.

    Hope this helps and you are welcome to reach out for more info/help.

    Mike Brown - Owner of Mossy's Fly Shop in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Planning a bucket list fly fishing trip to Alaska is a must for any angler. The fishing, strength of the fish, scenery, and overall experience far outweighs any that you can achieve in the lower 48. The trout are much stronger for their size, and salmon are just out of the ocean and fight like ocean fish. This is a hard scenario to beat!

    You must ask yourself if you want to catch trout on normal techniques or would be ok with targeting them on egg patterns? This is a huge factor for the trout. Early season we fish for them on streamers and mice patterns- June 8 - July 20th. Later, when the salmon start to spawn, we target them on egg patterns. The egg pattern time of year has higher catch rates and the fish are bigger, BUT it is all sub surface- July 20 - close in September. This is important because some purists may not appreciate targeting trout on egg patterns. In AK, this is just the hatch.

    The salmon that are best on the fly are chum, silver, and pink salmon. Silvers take the trophy for most acrobatic but all take a fly that is swung, stripped, or a dry that is skated, YES, dry flies.

    These 3 salmon species can all be targeted from the last week of July through the end of August. The peak catching time for chum and pink salmon is from the last week of July - the middle of August. The peak time for Silver salmon is from the second week of August - the first week of September.

    King salmon run the month of July but are reserved for the fly angler that appreciates "steelhead" type catch rates. A king a day on the fly is a good pace as they require much more patience and are less aggressive to bite a fly. Believe me, a king on the fly is the pinnacle species.

    If I had to pick a favorite time to come to Alaska for my first trip, it would probably be the second or third week of August in our river system. The sheer numbers and catch rates will blow any angler away for both salmon, trout, char, and grayling.

    I hope this helps?

    John Perry - Head Guide & Owner at Angler's Alibi
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