Alaska is BIG country. Everyone knows it is the largest state in the union and home to the world’s greatest diversity of wild and native trout, grayling, Dolly Varden, and salmon. With such a massive area it may seem daunting to break down the best fly-fishing trips in Alaska and when to give yourself the best chance to create the Alaska fly fishing trip of your dreams.
The first step is to understand the fishing seasons of Alaska. Here all in one place is an in-depth guide to fishing for Alaska’s fly fishing species on the angling calendar.
Early Season: June and into July
To target a diversity of species and fish for trout with a variety of different fly patterns, early season is the time for fly fishing in Alaska. Anglers typically target rainbows on a variety of different fly patterns including streamers, nymphs, dry flies, and even skated mouse patterns! As the rainbow trout come out of a long winter, they have been lethargic and dormant. Early season is when they begin to feed heavily and aggressively. Anglers fishing well-presented fly patterns can have dozens of aggressive and visual takes in a day of fishing. Great fishing opportunities also exist for a variety of salmon species. King salmon are often abundant by mid or late June depending on the area. Sockeye, pink, and chum salmon begin arriving into the river systems as well, making for a diversity of options. Since this can still be considered early season, it is often overlooked.
Mid-Season: Mid-July and August
By mid-July and well into August, sockeye makes a big push upstream to spawning areas. As this happens, other species, and some very large ones at that, follow the migratory fish, making this a great time to catch a lot of rainbow trout, some of them may be the biggest fish of the year. These rainbows tend to feed mostly subsurface during this time as the salmon drop their eggs and flesh into the river, creating an endless protein buffet for large and hungry rainbow trout. This is also an ideal time to fly fish for silver salmon. Silver salmon can chase down steamers and topwater fly patterns aggressively, and when hooked are acrobatic, fighting long and hard. For big fish, and plenty of them, July and August tend to be the busiest months of the Alaska fishing season. Because of this, Alaska fly fishing lodges tend to book up well in advance—sometimes a year or two out.
Late Season: September and early October
This is “trophy time” for big rainbows on an Alaska fly-fishing trip. For three months or more, Alaska’s rainbow trout have gorged themselves—eating eggs and flesh—to their largest size of the year. These larger fish remain in the rivers and dedicated anglers can land some trophy-sized fish. Late season in Alaska is a great time for anglers looking to land a once in a lifetime rainbow trout – many reaching 30-plus inches! Colder temperatures and precipitation can be more prevalent, but the fall colors of Alaska are beautiful, and the scenery is, of course, always spectacular. Waters are less crowded as the summer-time anglers have left, so fly fishing Alaska in the fall is an intimate experience not to be missed.
An Alaska fly fishing trip can be full of adventure, wilderness, and big fish. With perhaps the world’s highest concentration of diverse fly fishing for large freshwater fish available to anglers, the Last Frontier should be first on any angler’s wish list. Even if Alaska is a familiar destination, the available experiences here are unique and remarkable, making the first or one of many return fly fishing trips to Alaska one of the planet’s great angling adventures.