Blog

Five Reasons to Really Respect Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden 

Five Reasons to Really Respect Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden 

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 […]

Read More →

Read More →

Our Five Favorite Rivers for Fly Fishing in Alaska

Our Five Favorite Rivers for Fly Fishing in Alaska

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 […]

Read More →

Read More →

10 Twitter Accounts That Every Fly Fisherman Should Follow

10 Twitter Accounts That Every Fly Fisherman Should Follow

Imagine asking a fly fisherman here in Alaska about tweets 10 years ago. Picture that same angler scratching his head and wondering why you wanted to talk about chickadees. Today, Twitter has everybody hooked, and we can’t resist hashing the tags. Here’s our list of 10 Twitter accounts that every fly fisherman should follow. 1. Fly Fishing Report @FlyFishReport This latest entry in the Twitterverse doesn’t have a website yet. They do have a passion for everything about fly fishing, and their tweets hook up with breaking news, plenty of pics and great videos. FFR promises to go live in the next few months, so we strongly recommend staying tuned. RT @wildsalmoncntr: Oh, that all salmon rivers look like this! Let’s protect our last, best https://t.co/VtstcUiTBG pic.twitter.com/A1tNoh0tSb — Fly Fishing Report (@FlyFishReport) January 15, 2016 2. Simms Fishing @SimmsFishing If you’re one of the oldest fly fishing gear companies in the world, you tweet about it. We give Simms credit for focusing on tips, techniques and conservation without overselling their goods. Interested in a beautiful shot of rainbows charging minnows? Yes, they lure us in with wonderful photography. Support fish-focussed management and preserve prime salmon and trout habititat in Alaska. https://t.co/jOZy8Za7yG pic.twitter.com/DBpRHSI4Lt — Simms Fishing (@simmsfishing) December 17, 2015 3. Sage Fly Fishing @SageFlyFish Again, we’re linking up with commercial tweets, but founder Don Green always had our respect as one of the world’s master fly rod designers. It’s good to see his legacy live on in the digital world. Enjoy a mix of breaking news and breathtaking pictures. Yes, they also bait us with product updates. Ambassador Mark Raisler of @headhuntersfly with a gorgeous brown. #sageflyfish http://t.co/zOT9Vgytm4 pic.twitter.com/N5JX1aVSzU — Sage Fly Fish (@sageflyfish) September 27, 2015 4. Redington @RedingtonGear We aren’t endorsing. We just call them like we follow them. Redington’s innovative products are always worth a quick read. Besides, one click leads to another, and suddenly you’re linked up with a fly fishing story on the other side of the globe. No, they don’t tempt us with enough pictures. Battle for the flats. #findyourwater #vapenblack #behemoth @thebugparade pic.twitter.com/UFioKYq6OL — Redington (@RedingtonGear) January 24, 2016 5. April Vokey @AprilVokey We’re OK that she’s down in British Columbia because she’s developed her Fly Gal guide service into a network with worldwide connections. For a dedicated conservationist, Vokey has a seriously entertaining attitude, and that makes her tweets worth following. We always learn something new too. Long casts & separated loops go “hand in hand”! Yes, that was a cheesy pun. pic.twitter.com/R1EnYCNnHd — April Vokey- Fly Gal (@AprilVokey) October 28, 2015 6. Field & Stream @FieldandStream We wonder at what the first publishers of this icon might think if you could transport them here from 1895. We marvel at how well an old flagship bridges the divide between print and tweet. Enjoy top-notch content that’s always relevant even if it doesn’t give us as much fly fishing as we’d like. Kirk Deeter’s Fly-Fishing Tip: Consider Shadows and Sun https://t.co/gZFRWj0rY2 pic.twitter.com/jWLXSp3jSB — Field […]

Read More →

Read More →

10 Tips to Improve Your Fly Fishing Powers

10 Tips to Improve Your Fly Fishing Powers

Besides the rod, reel, waders and flies, there’s something else that sets you apart from other sportsmen. You love your game enough to do it all day, every day. As a dedicated fly fisherman, you relish the idea of spending the rest of your life getting better and better at the only outdoor sport that really matters. We add to your ongoing quest for knowledge with these 10 tips to improve your fly fishing. 1. Start Out Shallow You’ll eventually get all the way out there, so don’t storm the river without exploring that shallow water first. Take your time, ease your way in with a few short casts, and enjoy the salmon and trout that rise to your shallow presentations. Ignore your buddies’ sideways looks while you get the fishing day off to a productive start. You don’t always have to be hip-deep to hit serious action. 2. Add Accuracy to Those Short Casts Now that you appreciate the overlooked art of staying shallow, you realize that you haven’t had much practice with the unappreciated short cast. It isn’t easy, but it’s a technique that you can master over time. Until then, give your rod an advantage with an overweight. It sounds too simple to be true, but overweighting by just one line weight can turn you into a master short-caster. 3. Stay on the Move Don’t enjoy that shallow action so much that you start working one spot over and over perfecting your presentation. You know the raw aggression of a salmon anywhere near a good fly. Trout make up for their short feeding season with a frenzy. Give them your best, and move on with your chin held high when they ignore you. They aren’t the only fish in the river. 4. Learn to Read That Foam Develop a talent for foam reading, and you’ll always be on top of main current seams. As the water flow moves the foam, you know it’s moving the buffet that entices hungry fish, so follow the flow line. It’s also an excellent strategy for catching minor drag problems. If your fly isn’t moving in synch with the foam, it’s time to make some adjustments. 5. Go Prepared for Anything Are you ready to catch something besides chinook and rainbow? Don’t limit your chances for action with a two-species mindset. Surprise your guide the night before you head out with an idea to fish for something that isn’t salmon or trout. He’s your go-to guy for everything it takes to catch something outside the tackle box, and he’ll appreciate your sense of adventure. 6. Let Go of Perfection If you could nail every cast on the money, you probably wouldn’t be reading this list. If you’re like most other fly fishermen, you sometimes miss the mark, and that’s OK. Relax, and take a deep breath. While you figure out what went wrong, just go with the drift. Fly fishing is as much mental as it is physical, so don’t wear yourself […]

Read More →

Read More →

Planning a Fly Fishing Trip? The Worst Advice You’ll Ever Get

Planning a Fly Fishing Trip? The Worst Advice You’ll Ever Get

Friends are excited to see you heading off for the Last Frontier, and everyone has an opinion. If you’ve managed this wonderful escape before, it’s easy to separate good and bad advice. If this is your first chance to fly fish in Alaska, be careful. If this is your first chance to fly fish in Alaska, be careful. Some tips are great, some are crazy, and some are just plain awful. We nominate these five nuggets as the worst advice we’ve ever heard about planning a fly fishing trip. 1. Buy All Your Gear at Home You already have a favorite rod and reel, but you’re excited about the upcoming trip and ready to restock that tackle box with fresh flies and beads. Friends who tell you to buy new gear before you take off believe that it’s money-saving advice. It might be if you can completely outfit a trip at the nearest big box store. You want to hit the river with the right equipment, so wait, and do some shopping up here. It’s easier to match tackle with water and fish when you’re on the scene. 2. Cheap Lodges Are Just Fine We know that an Alaskan fly fishing trip isn’t always easy on the budget. You can find lodges with rock-bottom rates, and you get what you pay for. Cheap accommodations don’t come with frills like good food, comfortable beds and outdoor balconies. The money you save doesn’t go towards experienced guides, licensed pilots and a friendly staff. You don’t have to stay at a luxury lodge to enjoy the very best up here, but don’t shortchange your chance for an unforgettable getaway by booking with a low-ball outfit. 3. Local Tackle Shops Don’t Offer Much You won’t find fancy floor displays and acres of equipment. You will find some of your best resources for the latest news on rivers, runs and weather reports at the local tackle shop. The folks who own these small operations have spent their lives up here, they love to talk about fly fishing, and they don’t charge a thing for their expert advice. Which flies are working right now? What river blew out yesterday? Get to know the local fly shop, and you’ll be on top of it all. You’ll make great new friends, too. 4. You Don’t Need a Guide You can rent an isolated cabin, check your maps and head for the nearest river. You can spend your entire trip trying to figure out why you aren’t catching anything. The alternative is hooking up with a seasoned guide who makes a living by making sure you land plenty of fish. His experience is a great teacher, and his patience is legendary. We have more than 3,000 rivers to explore here in Alaska, and it just takes one professional guide to put you on top of the action. 5. Fishing Is All You Get to Do Fly fishing never gets old, but it’s not the only thing that you’ll love […]

Read More →

Read More →

Five Tips for Tutoring Your Youngest Fishing Buddy

Five Tips for Tutoring Your Youngest Fishing Buddy

How old were you when you cast your first fly? Do you remember that combination of wonder and excitement? Whether you started out as a kid or tackled fishing a little later in life, it’s fun to think back on those days when your lack of finesse didn’t matter. Learning how to do something that calls to your spirit is one of life’s better joys. Passing along that passion to a child connects you both on levels that stay strong for a lifetime. When you’re ready to tutor a young fishing buddy in the ways of Alaskan fly fishing, focus on these five productive tips. 1. Bait That Natural Curiosity If a child watches intently and wants to know why you put together those bug-looking things, he’s a good candidate for the river. If he likes to explore the tackle box, show him your case, and tell him why different fish chase different flies. Most young anglers don’t care about the details, but they’ll listen when you explain that fish are like people with different appetites. The fact that you sit at a table making fake insects is enough to impress any curious kid, so show him how to tie a wooly bugger. Ask him if he’d like to try it out, and watch that little face light up as you start planning a day together on the water. 2. Fit the Gear to the Kid As much as you love your old gear, your youngest fisherman really wants his own stuff. Resist the temptation to pass off your favorites as sentimental hand-me-downs, and head for the pro shop. From kid-sized rods and waders to pint-sized hats and shades, you’ll find everything for outfitting a short-statured novice. Let him try out a few rods for size while you consider weight options. Most 6-weight rods are heavy enough for a child’s cast, but you might want a 4- or 5-weight for someone small who doesn’t need as much stiffness. A kid’s enthusiasm goes a lot further when he’s not worn out from working a rod that’s hard to handle. 3. Don’t Make Casting Complicated Your littlest angler won’t master the perfect cast in one season. You can fine-tune techniques later, so concentrate on the basics for now. Try a simple approach to casting that starts with a two-hand hold on the rod and thumbs on top. Instruct your young student to quickly lift the rod, and then give it a sudden stop even with his ear as the line goes straight behind him. Follow through with a smooth forward motion that puts the tip at eye level to loop the line and deliver that fly. Never underestimate the power of patient encouragement and sincere compliments as he starts to get the drift. 4. Make Everything Easy to Enjoy Getting a kid hooked on fly fishing should always be about having a good time. Give that budding fisherman a fighting chance for a great start in water that you know promises plenty of […]

Read More →

Read More →

Our 10 Favorite Fly Fishing Writers

Our 10 Favorite Fly Fishing Writers

We considered putting together a list of the best, but that started too many arguments. Instead, we offer a collection of our 10 favorite writers who always manage to translate the fly fishing experience into words that we really enjoy. The next time you’re stuck inside waiting for the weather to break, break out one of these authors. For easy reference and an end to friendly disagreements, we’ve alphabetized our list. 1. James Babb Editor emeritus is a pretty impressive title, and Babb earns it with unmatched wit and style at Gray’s Sporting Journal. While we admire his well-earned literary credentials, he could be a lonely guy writing from the bed of his truck and still make this list with his book, “River Music.” He’s that good. When our copy of Gray’s hits the mailbox, we hit Babb’s fishing essay first. 2. Kirk Deeter If you ever thought that you missed your calling as a fly fishing guide, read Deeter’s essays on what the professional’s life is really like. If you want to know everything about every type of fly, knot and line, snag one of his reference books. Deeter knows his stuff, and he generously shares it all with his blog over at Field and Stream. We admit it. We also enjoy the great photography. 3. John Gierach Anybody who writes a book titled “Sex, Death and Fly Fishing” earns a place on this list. We won’t give away the first essay in this highly entertaining volume, but it involves mayflies. Gierach does more than put a knowing smile on your face. The original trout bum’s advice, strategies and river wisdom make any one of his 33 books a must-have for your fly fishing library. 4. Ted Leeson We have a real winner here. Leeson snagged the IFFF’s Roderick Haig-Brown Award for outstanding fly fishing lit back in 1996, but you probably know him better from Field and Stream. If our sport had a philosophy professor, it would be Leeson, and his volume, “The Habit of Rivers,” would be the only class assignment anyone would ever need. His writing captures and celebrates the spirit that makes us all love fishing. 5. Nick Lyons No fly fishing book collection is complete without several well-worn classics including a copy of “Spring Creek.” Lyons is a prolific writer and independent publisher, and we’re still turning his pages after more than 30 years. His ability to string together wisdom and humor makes us all proud of our collective fly fishing obsessions. We salute both his talent and longevity. 6. Thomas McGuane Settle in, and travel from Florida to Russia and Montana to Iceland. You’ve probably never imagined fly fishing in the Andes, but McGuane puts you there as he paints pictures with words that capture the essence of some of the world’s most beautiful rivers and lakes. His essays are timeless, he’s been writing for more than 30 years, and he’s very funny. 7. Howell Raines A Pulitzer Prize for journalism isn’t necessary to […]

Read More →

Read More →

No See Um Named One of the Best Fly Fishing Vacation Spots in the World

No See Um Named One of the Best Fly Fishing Vacation Spots in the World

If you have ever been a guest at No-See-Um Lodge, then we hope you would consider it one of the best locations you have ever been for a fly fishing vacation. Well, we are happy to note that one fly fishing focused website, My Alaskan Fishing Trip, puts No-See-Um Lodge on their summary of the best fly fishing vacation spots in the world – that’s right…not just Alaska…in the WORLD. The article includes fly fishing focused lodges from locations as diverse as Mexico, Iceland, and New Zealand but No-See-Um is the lone representative from Alaska.  Obviously, there are a lot of great lodges in Alaska to choose from and what makes it especially exciting to be the Alaskan representative on the list is the fact that the content developers website focuses on Alaska fly fishing – so they know every lodge and location throughout the state. The summary of No-See-Um highlights the diversity of fish species that anglers will be able to target in the waters around the lodge as a primary reason we are a top destination.  However, it also notes additional factors like our camp guides and luxury accommodations…speaking of which, No-See-Um Lodge also made the sites list of Top Ten Luxury Lodges in Alaska!  They are right when they say ‘your only job here is to enjoy the outstanding food and reel in trophy fish’.

Read More →

Read More →

10 Tools Every Alaskan Fly Fisher Should Be Using

10 Tools Every Alaskan Fly Fisher Should Be Using

You wouldn’t be caught on the river without sharp nippers and sturdy hemostats. You respect the fish with rubber nets and baby your favorite flies with waterproof cases. Beyond the basics, it’s easy to get overloaded with gear and gadgets, so we recommend these 10 essential tools that every Alaskan fly fisherman should be using. 1. Save Your Eyes With a Fly Threader Changing out flies in a flash is a snap with a handy fly threader. Shady spots don’t slow you down when you have one of these simple tools, and it really ups production at sunrise and sunset. The basic configuration provides magnetic slots for different fly sizes that let you handle the smallest eye by simply sliding the tippet down a funneled channel. 2. See Better With a Clip-On Do you need a better bead on that threader? How about a small magnifier that clips on your hat’s brim? This extra eye instantly doubles your visual powers. Most models sport lightweight clips and hinges that secure the magnifier out of the way until you need it. When the job warrants a closer look, you’re ready to stay focused. Just fold the rectangular viewer back over your brim when you’re done. 3. Pouch Your Patterns Dry This remedy for soaked flies is one of your best Alaskan fly fishing buddies. It works like magic, but the secret ingredients are natural materials that suck up moisture with a firm squeeze and revive drowned flies for immediate action. Most drying pouches measure a compact 2 inches by 3 inches with protective leather covers, and they’re versatile enough for all of your flies. 4. Stay Sharp With a Multi-Tool Some anglers swear by the trusty Swiss army knife, but you’re better off with a small tool collection designed especially for fly fishing. The best multi-tools sport hook hones, needle-noses, cutters and more. They won’t replace your gear box, but most of these handy, compact kits are just what you need when you’re waders deep in serious fly fishing action. 5. Tool Your Way to Quick-Release When you’re fly fishing in Alaska, a quality quick-release tool is always essential. It spares fish from extra handling and line tangles, and that ups their chances for quick recovery. Your hands stay dry while flies avoid damage, and that ups quality time on the water. You’ll appreciate a good quick-release tool when you’re catching more than 100 fish a day on the Kvichak River. 6. Handle Them With Landing Gloves Catch and release rules, but when you have to lay on the hands, do it with care. Landing gloves protect fish with a dual-layer outer mesh that makes it easer to handle even the biggest salmon and trout without causing harm. Hold that fish, smile for the camera, and enjoy knowing that you’re practicing the kind of responsible catch and release that helps preserve one of Alaska’s most important natural resources. 7. Refresh With a Filter Why not carry a lightweight, compact thermos that doubles […]

Read More →

Read More →

10 Sure Signs That You Need to Visit Alaska

10 Sure Signs That You Need to Visit Alaska

In your imagination, you’ve been there so many times. Once visions of the Last Frontier start dancing in your head, there’s no denying that longing in your soul. If you have any doubts about those dreams tugging on your sleeve, here are 10 sure signs that you really need to plan a trip to Alaska soon. You Count Trout Instead of Sheep – When life gets too busy, getting to sleep at night takes a little help. When you start counting rainbow trout instead of sheep, it’s time to head north. Those torpedo-shaped beauties and their brilliant colors are the fish that angling fantasies are made of. Nothing compares to the majesty of a wild rainbow flying out of the water on the end of your line. The Grid Is Officially a Grind – You’re always plugged in and powered up. Even a day off surrenders to the sound of your smartphone or taps on a tablet. It all adds up to a form of constant online overload, but you know there’s an escape. Alaska isn’t that far away, and it offers a peace and quiet that drowns out all that digital noise. You don’t have to unplug completely, but you can if you want to. Vacations Are Becoming Routine – When you think about an upcoming getaway, do you realize how often you’ve been there and done that? You need a change in scenery that rates spectacular. Imagine crystal rivers and pristine countryside. Picture landing at a rustic fishing lodge in a de Havilland Beaver and watching stars shoot across the night skies from your cabin deck. There isn’t anything routine about a vacation in the 49th State. The Wilderness Keeps Calling – Close your eyes, and listen. Do you hear the cry of a bald eagle flying overhead? Give in to that call of the wild, and add the sound of rushing water, the rustle of towering spruce and the howl of a lone wolf. It’s all a part of the natural symphony that extends an open invitation to the magic of Alaska’s unspoiled wilderness. It’s an offer that you can’t resist. Dreams of Fresh Salmon Dance on Your Palate – Nothing else compares to that incredibly pure flavor. You know a farm faux fish with the flick of a fork, but cutting into a fresh chinook salmon filet is akin to slicing butter. Regardless of what the menu tells you, your palate knows. That culinary longing for a taste of something deliciously real is a sure sign that you’re overdue making dinner reservations somewhere close to Bristol Bay. You Need a New Frontier – There’s still plenty left to conquer, but it’s hemmed in by office space and city limits. You’re not afraid of new challenges, but they begin to take on a shade of sameness. Variety is a spice that you can find anywhere, but you can only find 660,000 square miles of rugged natural beauty inside Alaska’s state lines. The Last Frontier can be your […]

Read More →

Read More →

Top