We enjoy tenkara fly fishing here in Alaska because it lets us focus on trout instead of fussing with gear. Whether you’re new to this timeless style of stalking fish or you’ve already mastered tying the perfect kebari, we bet you’re a lot like us. You appreciate a quick rundown of easy, productive techniques. These five tips can really help you get the most out of your fixed line fly fishing experience. 1. Sometimes, Level Beats Furled A furled tenkara line lets you finesse presentation into a fine art, and its tapered twist can perfect your turnover. Sometimes, its length options are too limited, and its bulky taper interferes with casting on a windy day. In these situations, a level line wins. You can also count on straight fluorocarbon line to keep you off the water and reduce drag, so include it in your small but effective set of must-have gear. 2. Sometimes, Long Beats Short The short line holds its place as a fundamental part of tenkara gear for good reason. It’s easy to cast and gives you powerful control over placement. Sometimes, you need the reach of a long line, but know how to handle it. Ease up on the power of your throw, and go with a back cast stop at 12 o’clock. Keep your forward cast stop high so that your fly hits the water before your line. 3. The Wind Can Be Your Friend Don’t give up when the breeze turns into a stiff wind. One of our favorite tenkara tricks, the blowline technique, can keep you on the water for hours. Put the wind at your back, and pull your rod up so that the fly clears the water. When wind catches the line, guide the fly just above your target, and then lower the rod. We don’t promise accuracy with this method, but it can turn into a real trip-saver. 4. If It’s Not Working, Quit Trying When a dead drift doesn’t work, try a swing down and across stream. If the trout keep ignoring you, entice them with a little sutebari by casting around them and then throwing to target. Minimum gear choices keep options simple, so you can switch techniques as fast as that trout turns away. Ask us why we enjoy tenkara so much, and we have to say because it gives us the freedom to quit doing what isn’t working. 5. Let Go and Get Lost It takes a little time to get used to fishing without a reel. The experience is surprisingly liberating, and that’s one of the reasons that fixed line fishing earns such a respected place on the water. You’re not making decisions based on gear, so you’re in a mental zone that’s not rattled by technical clutter. Let go, get lost, and set yourself free to experience the zone and zen that define tenkara fly fishing. Just like you, we’re always working on our techniques up here at No See Um Lodge. We know that […]
Welcome to the world of fly fishing in Alaska where you’re cordially invited to wade right in and read all about the greatest outdoor sport on the planet. We admit it. We’re insanely partial to posting about everything that makes the hearts of trout bums beat a little bit faster. You have to admit it too. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t share our passion for the art of a careful cast and a perfect presentation.
What do we cover in this section of our ongoing and always-entertaining blogs? We post about sockeyes and bows and dolly varden. We share fishing tips and angling tricks. We laugh at some of the worst fly fishing advice we’re ever heard, and then we turn into softies teaching the kids in our lives how to cast. If you love variety, climb aboard, and start reading. It’s the next best thing to hanging out with us in front of the lodge fireplace.
We recently partnered with Woman’s Outdoor News to showcase some of our best tips for successful fly fishing. These cover a variety of fly fishing tips to help you cast better, fish smarter and advance your fly fishing. Here’s the full breakdown! Getting Off to a Great Start: You’re on your favorite river and ready to catch every fish in Alaska. Slow down, and ease your way into a productive day. Fish are easier to catch when you can see them. Polarized sunglasses let you spot potential strikes under the brightest sun-kissed waters. Take in the lay of the land and the river. Check your clearance, size up the shade, and scan for seams. Let the water and air dictate your fly selections. Sneak up on the fish. They spook at the sight and sound of waders, so ease into position without splashing, and then start slowly stalking. Three Must-Tie Fishing Knots If you’re new to fly fishing in Alaska, start with these 3 basic knots. If you’re a seasoned pro, practice the trinity, and improve your tie-on-the-fly time. Improved Clinch Knot: It’s easy, it’s fast and it gives you 95% of your original line strength. This is your classic knot for attaching light tippets to small flies. No-Slip Loop Knot: Does that fly need a little more action in the drift? Alaskan fly-fishing guides recommend this knot with larger lines. Double Surgeon’s Knot: When you need to connect different-sized lines, go with this quick and easy tie. It’s bulky, but it lets you size your tippet to suit your fly. Mousing Tips for Trout Who knows why rodents fling themselves off riverbanks? Just take advantage of big rainbows’ appetites for little 4-legged swimmers. Go mousing for trout. Natural mouse action starts up against the bank. Present your giant, dry fly to fish tucked in and under. It’s an enticement they usually can’t refuse. Trust ‘bows for excellent eyesight. They’ll move out to your mouse, so reel them in with a strip-and-swing combo. You’ll cover more water, catch more fish and have more fun. Mousing takes patience. That’s the hard part. Wait for the closed mouth and the turned head, and then set the hook. Otherwise, wave goodbye to that trophy trout. Prepare Yourself for Rain You can count on a few rainy days, but be prepared for all of them. A little wet weather can’t chase you off the water when you’re prepared with quality rain gear. Gore-Tex still beats the competition as your best waterproof fabric choice. Its lightweight and breathability keep you flexible and comfortable. Go with a wading jacket. The shorter length keeps you from taking on water, and oversized pockets give you plenty of room for fly boxes and hand warmers. Layer on the right materials. Slip a quick-dry, long sleeve shirt over a T-shirt made from the same material. This strategy helps you stay dry regardless of the weather. Avoid Snags with a Sidearm Cast Sometimes, the trout know just where to lure you […]
Do you have to have a pair to enjoy fly fishing up here in Alaska? We highly recommend that you do. Should you stick with a particular style, fabric or construction? We have our opinions, and we believe they’re worth sharing. Allow us to weigh in with our five-point guide on picking the perfect waders for your Alaskan fly fishing adventures. 1. You Want Warm Waders in Alaska It stays pretty cool up here. Nothing slows down a day on the Kvichak river like a chill that spreads from your feet to where it really counts. Salmon and ‘bows don’t care about the cold, and you don’t either when you’re layered up. Chest waders keep your core warm, and that keeps your head in the game from spring ice-out to late season. They give you plenty of bushwhacking protection too. When we see anglers up here wearing waist-high waders, we just smile. 2. Fabric Doesn’t Have to Weigh You Down Neoprene waders have a reputation for durability, affordability and warmth. They’re also really hard to peel off. We only mention rubber because it’s still available, very inexpensive and easy to patch. Neither material holds up to the lightweight comfort of high-tech microporous fabrics. You want waders that give you flexible room to move and breathable space to sweat. Materials like GORE-TEX win the wader-warmth category too when you layer some fleece under your fishing clothes. 3. Wader Design Deserves a Close Look Stick your head inside those waders before you make a decision. Are seams tight and smooth? You want solid construction that doesn’t unravel. Do you see layering from mid-thigh down? Better models offer reinforced protection from the waist down and around to the rear. High-end waders also treat your feet right with comfortable booties that feature ergonomic design. Make sure gravel guards offer good stretch and metal-fastener security, and check suspenders for easy adjustment. 4. If You Can’t Try It On, Make Size Matter We understand that you do a lot of things online. Shopping for fly fishing gear is one of our favorite digital pastimes, but we don’t wear reels or nymphs. The best way to suit up in waders that fit requires an in-person visit to the store. Otherwise, keep these rules of thumb in mind. Start with your sweatshirt size, and include extra room for layers. Go with a wader inseam measurement 1 to 2 inches longer than your own. Shoe size counts in both stockingfoot and bootfoot waders, but factor in heavy socks. Use the manufacturer’s sizing chart to pull your numbers together and select the best fit. Always double-check the return policy just in case. 5. It’s OK to Spoil Yourself You’re not supposed to care how they look, but you have standards. It’s not your style to obsess over extras, but you appreciate the small touches. As long as your waders keep you dry and warm, they’re performing as advertised. On the other hand, retractor docking stations on chest pockets are pretty […]
Once winter sets in, we don’t do much fly-fishing. That never surprises folks from the Lower 48 because everybody knows that it gets pretty cold up here. What does surprise them isn’t a secret, and it always puts a smile on faces that come fish with us for the first time. We actually have four unofficial fly-fishing seasons here in southwestern Alaska, and each one is perfect in its own way. Unofficial Fishing Season 1 – April and May By April, the ice-out is on, but we treat early fly fishing spring fever with a big dose of patience. The state protects spawning rainbows by closing trout fishing in many rivers and streams and all fishing in some area waters. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game posts online reports with detailed information about stocked lakes that are open through early spring. By May, downstream salmon fry migration turns into a buffet for winter-starved predators like dolly varden, and our unofficial first fly fishing season is unofficially under way. Unofficial Fishing Season 2 – June and July When rainbow fishing opens around the middle of June, we’re already out there chasing king, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon. The kings’ unofficial early run usually peaks by the middle of June, and we see anglers land 50- to 60-pounders every year. Early sockeye action fires up by the end of June with some of the world’s largest runs happening right here in southwestern Alaska. We’re catching plenty of dollies and ‘bows too. By the end of July, we’re officially in Alaskan fly fishing heaven. Unofficial Fishing Season 3 – August and September The end of summer means last call for late king and sockeye runs as they finish spawning, but even-numbered years put us on pink salmon from early August well into September. We’ve broken a few rods on 20-pound chums in August, and cohos stay aggressive well into September. Steelhead start to show up in some of our peninsula watersheds delivering serious fly fishing action all the way through October. Rainbow trout really bring out the best in us this time of year. They’re pretty much full of salmon eggs, so it takes every trick in our tackle box to entice stuffed ‘bows. Dollies are just as challenging. Unofficial Fishing Season 4 – October and November Sure, sometimes we have to knock the ice out of our guides, but it’s not officially winter yet, so we make the most of Unofficial Season 4. We enjoy the last coho runs even with a little cold and rain. Steelheads can be as elusive as ever, but they’re here in small runs. The seasonal egg smorgasbord is disappearing out from under the ‘bows, so we switch to flesh patterns. Some of our flowing waters are closed mid-September through the end of October to protect dolly varden during their spawn, so we always check ADFG online for details. Unofficially, we spend winter getting the lodge ready for your fly-in. Whether you come up for the […]
We can guess what you’re thinking, and we agree. Nobody learns fly fishing by watching YouTube. On the other hand, anybody can go from being curious to buying their first waders with the right inspiration. Besides, it’s just fun to watch videos that cover rods and reels and flies and fish. Put “how to” in front of these 10 selections, let your fingers do the clicking, and enjoy. 1. Put Together Your First Rod, Reel and Line This video does a great job of explaining the basics. The sponsoring tackle shop is based in Wisconsin, but we don’t hold that against narrator Tim Landwehr. We like his easy style and the way he keeps it all interesting. 2. Fish With Wet Flies and Nymphs Orvis has put together a smart series with its video lessons, and the format is really user-friendly. In this one, host Tom Rosenbauer covers everything you thought you knew about nymphing. OK, he also covers a lot that you already know, but the quality of this series is outstanding. 3. Tie an Adams Fly From Fly Fishing Daily, Jim Misiura introduces basic fly tying for beginners. We like this one because Jim’s instructions are very clear and easy to follow. We also admire anybody who can make a video about tying flies while wearing a Band-Aid on one thumb. 4. Master the Morrish Mouse We picked this one out of a dozen great fly tying videos available at InTheRiffle.com. Notice the taper that the narrator trims into the body as he finishes up. We’d give him credit, but the video doesn’t, so we just thank him for the pointers. 5. Conquer a Kenai River Sockeye Rig Brian Smith from the Peninsula Clarion is correct. It’s just plain fun to tie your own, and we like his strategy with the red hooks. Sure, this is basic stuff, but remember when you tried it for the first time? Credit Smith for making something simple really watchable. 6. Wrapping a Hareball Leech In this video from Alaska Fly Fishing Goods, the narrator assumes that you know the basics as he shows you his take on tying one of the most effective patterns for catching salmon. He makes it almost look easy, so we’re impressed. 7. Read Any Kind of Water We have to give another tip of the rod to Orvis. From currents and cover to pools and pockets, Rosenbauer talks and walks us through every setting. While we don’t expect to read droughts up here any time soon, we appreciate how much water these videos wade through. 8. Test a 3D-Printed Reel No, we haven’t, and yes, we sure will if we get the chance. No, we can’t imagine it replacing our favorite reels, but yes, it’ll probably show up in pro shops one of these days. Field and Stream’s Joe Cermele tackles this one with just the right touch of humor. 9. Imagine That You’re in the Last Frontier […]
We don’t run into them very often here on the Kvichak River, but they stay up this way from time to time. We don’t name names because everybody enjoys their privacy, but we know a few. They might be on this list, and they might not. The next time you’re stalking trout, keep an eye on that angler just upstream. He or she might be on our list of 10 celebrities who really get fly fishing. 1. Harrison Ford Ford pilots his own de Havilland Beaver up to his Wyoming ranch, but he says that he doesn’t get as much time on the Snake River as he used to. We’re trying to picture a retired Han or Indiana relaxing on the front porch and reading old copies of Fish Alaska Magazine. 2. Jimmy Buffet You can bet that the original Coral Reefer never misses a shot at serious saltwater fly fishing when he’s at home in Palm Beach. This is a guy who makes casting from a SUP board look easier than sipping margaritas. We cordially invite Buffet to try that technique on Lake Iliamna. 3. Liam Neeson It’s hard to imagine this Academy-award winning action star fly-fishing without attacking the drift, but his off-screen reputation as a precision angler is well-documented. Neeson credits his success on Canadian rivers to patience, and we aren’t about to argue with him. 4. Reba McEntire What does an Oklahoma girl do when she wants a new hobby that doesn’t involve making great country music? She learns how to fly fish in Tennessee. Reba fell head over waders for the best outdoor sport on the planet back in 2012. How do we know? We have our sources. 5. Eric Clapton Sometimes, even rock gods think about retiring, and Clapton makes it clear that he enjoys fly fishing because it’s a little bit quieter than his day job. If we could tune into British TV, we’d sure like to see an episode of “Botham on the Fly” starring Slowhand himself and a nice grayling. 6. Martha Stewart This one is hard to figure, but Stewart seems serious about fly fishing even though she has a lot to learn. Check out her video of fishing on the Upper Ruby River in Montana with some guy named Ted. She’s put together the perfect gear and wardrobe for a day on the water, and that’s a good thing. 7. Huey Lewis When he sang about how it was hip to be square back in the ’80s, Lewis hadn’t put together his 500-acre Montana spread. A few rich and famous years later, he’s still fly fishing the rivers in Ravalli County just like his father taught him when he was a kid back in California. 8. Emma Watson We bet she can out-fish that Potter kid any day. While her character, Hermione, casts some impressive spells, Watson casts her lot with Britain’s conservation charity, the Wild Trout Trust. This young lady ties her own flies and often donates them to […]
If you’re like us, sometimes your enthusiasm gets in the way. Maybe you’re too focused on that perfect presentation. Perhaps you’re daydreaming about how the morning just has to get better, or you’re suddenly up to your waders in incredible action. Once in an Alaskan blue moon, you actually miss one of these 10 trout fly fishing basics. 1. Take a Good Look The greatest fly fishing guide in Alaska can put you on the best action of your life, but slow down before casting your fate to those trout. Take stock of shade, find the seams, and check out the water and air for the day’s most likely fly options. 2. Make Sure You Can See A few minutes of quiet observation puts you ahead of the game, but how well can you see that potential action? Polarized sunglasses make it easier to spot trout coursing through sun-spangled waters, and your favorite hat is must-wear eye-shading gear. 3. Wade, Don’t Splash If the sight and size of waders wasn’t enough to spook them, trout still take off at the sound of your thrashing and splashing from bank to position. Ease into the water slowly, sneak up on steelheads and rainbows, and quietly stalk them with fly fishing finesse. 4. Put Those Nymphs to Work What’s in the water all year long and makes up the majority of an Alaskan trout’s diet? What type of presentation doesn’t include watching that rainbow race for your dry fly? Don’t deny yourself the productivity that comes from mastering the art of casting nymphs. 5. Big Trout Love Streamers This is another angle that gets you out of the dry-fly box, and it’s really effective with the big guys. The larger the trout, the more it needs to eat. So, up your chances of landing a hungry trophy by swinging a good streamer presentation. 6. Match Colors With Seasons It happens. You try your best, and you still can’t figure out which fly color works best. When you’re overcome with indecision, don’t over-think it. Keep it as simple as lighter shades in the summer and dark colors for fall and spring. 7. Pause and Inspect Wind knots weaken line, hackles need adjustment, and tippets deserve a close look. Some Alaskan fly fishermen check their setup after every cast while others are good with a quick inspection after five or six tries. Mileage may vary, but this tip saves tackle and aggravation. 8. Hooks Need Help They don’t stay sharp by themselves, and the best down-time maintenance doesn’t always hold up to a stretch of heavy action. Keep a stone or diamond hone handy to touch up hooks that get dull during duty with as many rock strikes as trout bites. 9. When You Stalk, Stay Low You’ve probably demonstrated this basic to folks who are just learning the art of our sport, but it’s an easy one to forget. Trout that see you coming are gone in a heartbeat even when you’re wearing your […]
John Denny’s book, “The Secrets of Angling,” morphed the word into a noun, and Izaak Walton finally bestowed it on fishermen as a specific designation when he published “The Compleat Angler” in 1653. We could be called hookers. Go ahead and laugh. It makes us grin too, but think about the etymology. That $20 word for the study of word origins has something in common with fly fishing here in Alaska. It’s not an exact science, and its practice always leaves room for improvement, improvising and a passionate pursuit of perfection. We know that’s a mouthful, so let’s figure out the angler moniker with a very brief history of hooks. A Hook by Any Other Angle So, why are fishermen called anglers? Were we given the name as a verb describing what we do, or was it derived from that angle on the end of our lines? Yes, hooks were called angles back in the 1400s when Dame Juliana Berners published her ultimate guide titled “Treatise of Fishing With an Angle.” Dame Berners even included instructions for crafting angles because tackle shops didn’t catch on until the late 1600s. Gorges, Copper and Cock Feathers What do you call a spindle-shaped piece of bone used to catch fish more than 7,000 years ago? Archeologists call it a gorge. Fortunately, the wordsmiths left this one alone, and we’re glad because we don’t like the idea of being known as gorgers. The Bronze Age gave fishermen tools that let them reshape their gorges, and Egyptians figured out the basic shape that we recognize today. Those hooks dating back to 3000 B.C. were barbless copper wonders, but design evolution resulted in a barbed version by 1200 B.C. Second century Romans were partial to iron and bronze hooks sporting red wool and cock feathers. Historic rumor has it that these were the first hand-tied flies. From Homemade to Kirby Standards From those ancient times up to the days when defining the word “angler” was still up in the air, hook production was a home-based business. All fishing tackle started out as a project on someone’s back porch, but hooks posed a special challenge to determined fishermen. In spite of Dame Berners’ how-to book, the quality of iron hooks remained dicey at best. Credit inventive Englishman Charles Kirby for perfecting the steel-tempering process that put his little company on the map in 1665. Mass production quickly figured out his secrets, but his hook designs set the standards, and one of his originals brings a nice price for something that’s considered discontinued. Lucky Anglers With Options Whether we’re called anglers because of what we do or what we do it with, we can look back in amazement at how far we’ve come. Can you imagine what kind of tackle box you’d need for a gorge collection? You’d have to keep Roman cock feathers in a shoe box instead of a fly case. Today, we fish with steel, carbon and alloys. We can pick and choose hooks that […]
They’re not the Rodney Dangerfields of Alaska’s fly fishing scene, but they don’t take center stage in our angling dreams like sockeye and rainbows. If respect could be earned through sheer numbers, dolly varden would be superstars. These are fish so determined to make it that they refuse to just spawn and die. They spend their lives migrating back and forth from fresh water to salt and offer up angling adventures that rival their trophy cousins. We really admire Salvelinus malma, and here are five reasons why. 1. They Aren’t Arctic Char Yes, dollies and char are close relatives. It’s easy to get them mixed up because they bear a strong physical resemblance, but the two fish part company at the jaw line. Dollies have a much larger kype than char, and that huge hooked lower jaw gives them a distinctive profile. The fork in a char’s tail is deeper, and its spots are larger. Dolly varden sport pink or red bellies while char undercarriages are yellow, orange or gold. We enjoy catching char, but we admire dollies for not complaining about constantly being misidentified. 2. Dollies Put Up a Great Fight How you fish for dolly varden depends on time of year, location and your personal preferences. Generally speaking, they favor bright colors that resemble salmon eggs. Some anglers swear by white streamers, and others recommend all-black leech patterns. You can catch dollies on sinking tip or floating line with a 12-foot leader. Whatever approach you take, be sure to go with a 4 to 6 weight rod. We promise you’ll share our respect for the ferocious fight in these fish when you go after them with lighter gear. 3. They Give Us So Many Opportunities Does spring get you in a fever for Alaskan fly fishing fun? Cast your enthusiasm into an enormous shoal of dolly varden feeding on outgoing fry around our river mouths and estuaries. Hit small streams in July, and try to keep your cool in the late summer stalking dollies as they stalk the salmon egg-drop. Are you ready to land a fish so colorful that it looks like its wearing a clown suit? Spawning dolly varden in late August are your ticket to angling heaven. We salute dollies for giving us so many exciting opportunities to fish in so many beautiful settings all across the state. 4. Their Name Origin Is Interesting If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, you may be familiar with a character from his book, “Barnaby Rudge.” That Dolly Varden was fond of wearing brightly colored clothes, but our fish isn’t named after her. In the late 1800s, women routinely sewed their own, and one of the more popular fabrics was a pink, patterned muslim referred to as Dolly Varden. No one’s sure how the name was transferred from dress to fish, but we always appreciate an interesting backstory even when the details are fuzzy. 5. Dollies Survived Serious Misinformation Fuzzy details are one thing, but fuzzy science can […]
Everybody has an opinion. Every fisherman who’s been lucky enough to cast through a perfect day in the Last Frontier knows its best rivers for fly fishing. Every single angler is right, too. Recognizing this fact of fishing life makes it easier for us to put together our list. We know that you know the best, so we’re going to play it safe and just call these five locations our five favorite fly fishing rivers here in Alaska. 1. The Kenai River Running more 80 wild miles through the Alaskan panhandle to Cook Inlet, this river earns its reputation as a trophy-fish paradise. If that wasn’t enough to land it on our list of favorites, its spectacular backdrop of the Chugach Mountains seals the deal. The lower Kenai’s chinook runs are legendary, and we’re crazy about catching 20-pound rainbows on the upper river. Sockeye numbers from the middle of July through summer’s end can top 1 million. Cohos jump in by early August, and an average Dolly Varden tips the scales at 4 to 6 pounds. We admit that we’re partial to the upper Kenai’s seclusion and scenery. 2. The Copper River You have to love a river that was one of the first in Alaska to receive a catch-and-release-only designation for rainbow fly fishing. You have to call it a favorite for winding pools and undercut banks. This is a river that nature designed for wading with gorgeous stretches through scenic valleys lined with birch, spruce and cottonwood. The Copper is big, and it runs long for 300 miles out of the Wrangell and Chugach Mountains. The star-studded salmon lineup from mid-May through October includes chinook, sockeye and coho, and Copper River rainbows are still some of the biggest in Alaska thanks to that special designation. 3. The Talachulitna River Seeing truly is believing when you can count the fish swimming by. That’s how clear the Talachulitna’s water runs on its way down from Judd Lake in the Beluga Mountains. This incredible stretch earns its place on our list of favorites with a world-class combination of breathtaking scenery and amazing fly fishing action. When someone mentions the Dolly Varden they caught on the Tal, they’ll probably also brag about the chinook, rainbow and grayling they landed. If you dream about casting while majestic, snow-capped mountains look over your shoulder, fly in to one of our favorites, and fish the Talachulitna River. 4. The Alagnak River This tributary of our very own Kvichak River is a perfect spot for folks who are just now discovering the world’s best outdoor sport. Its lower stretches are wide with plenty of sandbars to anchor waders longing to get wet. We especially enjoy schools of silver salmon holding on the shallow edges, and we love chasing kings in the deep channels. The upriver braids are an endless labyrinth of gravel beds and small channels teeming with salmon and rainbows. Some folks like this 69-mile run for whitewater adventures, but we prefer perfecting our […]