This is a complete and comprehensive guide to Fly Fishing Alaska.
In this guide you will learn:
- Alaskan fish species
- Fly fishing tips and fly patterns
- Different regions with popular rivers and lakes for each region
- Helpful information on fly shops
- Best Alaskan fly fishing lodges
- Alaska fly in fishing charter planes and ferries
- Best Alaska fly fishing guides
Let’s dive in!
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Alaska Fly Fishing Map (Interactive)
Fly Fishing Alaska: Overview
For many anglers, the thought of fly fishing Alaska’s wild terrain and robust streams is a TOTAL dream come true! This is not a trip or a vacation but a total ADVENTURE. Here at anchor fly we wanted to give you the most comprehensive guide to fly fishing in the great state of Alaska. We have broken down the major fishing regions around Alaska; supplying you with information on the rivers/lakes, techniques, lodging, and fly shops for each area.
Alaska offers world-class fishing in a beautiful pristine environment. When thinking about Alaska fishing it features some other motivating factors such as:
- Big fish
- Unique species
Alaska was founded as the 49th state in 1959 and is the largest state in the union. Alaska also has a population of approximately 725,000; giving it the lowest population density at 1.3 people per square mile! This fact makes the last frontier one of the most remote places in the world.
Alaska is also home to some very diverse and breathtaking landscapes—from huge glaciers, giant mountain peaks, and lush rainforests, Alaska has something for everyone.
The state is tucked far away from virtually everything, and also boasts the most public lands than any other state at 95.8 percent; giving way for thousands of miles of public rivers and lakes.
Alaska is the breeding ground to a variety of fish species and HUGE fish! Some of the world’s record salmon have been caught in Alaskan waters. Furthermore, many of Alaska’s waterways allow you to catch several diverse species all in the same day.
Alaska holds an abundance of salmon, trout, and other game fish in its rivers and lakes. There are 5 different types of salmon; King (Chinook), Silver (Coho), Red (Sockeye), Chum (Dog), and Pink (Humpback).
Fly Fishing for Salmon in Alaska
In Alaska you have the opportunity to catch all 5 types of pacific salmon! Salmon are anadromous; which mean they can live in both fresh and saltwater. All Salmon are born in freshwater and spend the first few years of their life in the ocean before returning to their home rivers to spawn and die.
- King (Chinook) Salmon -These are the largest of the Pacific Ocean salmon and have a native range extending from Alaska to California. These salmon are huge draws for fly fishers wanting to experience a giant fish of a lifetime. These beautiful fish can be up to 90 pounds! And even bigger. Most of the time king salmon will range between 10-50 pounds.
- Silver (Coho) Salmon – Cohos are a popular game fish in Alaska and make up a significant portion of the Alaskan salmon population. These wild fighters are smaller than the Chinooks; averaging between 7-13 pounds. They have a bluish green back and silver side with a light belly.
- Red (Sockeye) Salmon – These brightly colored fish are often referred to as Red Salmon for their crimson bodies they develop when spawning. These fish range in size from 5-15 and are a real thrill to catch! The Sockeyes are an abundant species in Alaska and can have heavy runs in the millions. They are extra concentrated in the Kenai Peninsula and certain rivers of Bristol Bay.
- Chum (Dog) Salmon – Chum salmon are greenish-blue and silver—sometimes called dog salmon. They are found throughout the northern Pacific Ocean from Alaska down to California. These fish have the largest range and may migrate up to 2,000 miles upstream to spawn! Chum salmon are usually caught between 10-20 pounds, making them the second largest after king salmon.
- Pink (Humpback) Salmon – Pink Salmon, also referred to as Humback or Humpies are the last of the 5 salmon species in Alaska. The males will grow a pronounced back, gaining the name humpback. They are the most common species of salmon in the pacific ocean; a fact that will show when fishing many of their rivers during the spawning season. They are smaller than the other salmon species between 4-6 pounds on average.
Other game fish
LIke many northern regions, Alaska holds a healthy supply of other game fish. If you’re more in the mood to catch fat steelhead or Arctic Grayling, Alaska has got you covered.
- Steelhead – Alaska has a generous population of these powerful fish, which are often overlooked by anglers targeting salmon. Alaskan steelhead range from 7-14 pounds with some over 20 pounds caught. In Alaska, they are most common along the southeastern coast, especially Prince of Wales Island. There are also popular chrome rivers in the Kenai Peninsula.
- Rainbow Trout – Besides salmon, rainbow trout are the premier game fish in Alaska. They are native to the lower portions of Alaska, from the southeastern corner up through western Bristol Bay. Alaskan rainbow trout can be huge, with the best opportunity to catch a monster during the fall.
- Cutthroat Trout – Alaskan cutthroat trout span from Prince William Sound down throughout most of southeastern Alaska. These beautiful fish occupy much of Alaska’s smaller streams and tributaries. However, sea run cutthroats exist here too; spending their first few years in the rivers before venturing out to the ocean during the summer. Alaskan Cutthroat trout have a slow reproduction rate and coupled with over-fishing, there is a real concern over the future of these fish—catch and release fishing is strongly recommended.
- Lake Trout – These lake dwelling trout make-up Alaska’s largest freshwater fish. They can be found in deep inland lakes throughout the state, but are more concentrated in the Bristol Bay and Kenai Peninsula areas. Lake trout are best fished during the spring when they move to shallower waters looking for food. Streamers with a sink tip line is the preferred method for fly anglers. Lake trout can push 50 pounds, but the majority range between 7-12 pounds.
- Dolly Varden – A member of the Char family; these stunningly colored fish resemble a spawning brook trout. They live throughout Alaska and down into British Columbia. Dollies spend most of their time in the streams and lakes but will venture out into the ocean as they mature, eventually returning to their home waters to spawn. Dolly Varden are usually caught in the 1-2 pound but have been known to get up to 10 pounds.
- Arctic Char – These common Alaskan fish are closely related to Dolly Varden; with some biologists convinced they are the same species. Arctic char live primarily in lakes and can be found throughout the north slope, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, and Bristol Bay. Arctic Char are generally caught between 2-5 pounds but are not uncommon to grow over 10 pounds.
- Arctic Grayling – This is one of the most unique fish species in Alaskan waters and is a huge draw for fly fishers. Arctic graylings have a large dorsal fin with a gray body and black spots. They are found throughout Alaska but are best known for occupying Bristol Bay rivers. They live in deep pools and may be selective feeders; oftentimes requiring a perfect drift right in front of them. Arctic Grayling are pretty small and catching something over 16 inches is considered a big fish.
- Northern Pike – Northerns are not as targeted as other Alaskan game fish, but these toothy fish are gaining popularity. Most of Alaska holds pike; and can be found mainly in lakes. These stealthy predators will eat just about anything that swims in front of them, making big bright streamers the go to fly. It is not uncommon to catch Alaskan Pike in the 20-25 pound range.
More about bass and trout species:
- Bass Species Explained (North America Bass Catalog)
- Trout Species (Everything You Need to Know)
- Fly Fishing for Bass
Timing a trip to Alaska isn’t too hard as virtually anytime you go there will be different fish species to catch. Each region has different regulations regarding when fishing season starts, and moreover what fish can be legally targeted. To find more information on the different region’s regulation’s visit Alaska’s Fish and Wildlife Department’s website.
Because of how large and diverse Alaska is, there will be different times for fishing seasons and runs (spawning fish). It is best to research the region you are visiting in order to find the best times to fish.
We outlined a basic and general description of peak trout and salmon fishing seasons below:
End of April/early May
By the end of April/early May days are longer and starting to warm up, thawing out the rivers. This is the start of fishing for rainbows and cutthroat trout, along with dolly vardens that will last through the summer into October. Spring steelhead runs will also start at this time on some rivers, petering out by the end of May.
End of May into June
Near the end of May and June King Salmon start their spawning season, bringing crowds of anglers from all over the world. May and June can also supply ample fishing for northerns and lake trout as they move into shallow waters looking to put on weight after a long winter. By the end of June red salmon start to spawn.
July and August
July and August are the most productive times to fish as coho, sockeye, chum, and pink salmon all start to spawn, with a few Kings left in the rivers as well. This is the most popular time to visit Alaska, especially if you’re an angler. The excellent fishing will bring crowds, but if you’re not in the mood to fish shoulder to shoulder you can find more seclusion sticking to smaller streams and lakes in search of trout or pike.
September and October
September and October also supply great steelhead fishing opportunities that will last into November—if you can bear the cold and unpredictable weather patterns. There can also be plenty of coho salmon left in the rivers through these fall months.
Best times to fish in Alaska
Alaskan Insect Hatches
Alaska, like all areas around the world produces plentiful insect hatches. Alaska’s hatches are often overshadowed by the heavy use of streamers and egg patterns used by many for salmon and steelhead. However, Alaska does have consistent hatches throughout the summer; including Stoneflies, Mayflies, and Caddis. Alaska also has midges, and some terrestrial like beetles and ants. A lot of fishing is going to be using nymphs and other wet flies. There is some popular dry fly fishing, although they do not compare to the abundant dry fly fishing in the lower 48.
Best flies for Trout, Arctic Char, Grayling
Most common beadhead nymphs, popular throughout the mountain west will catch trout. A few specific examples include:
Best Alaskan trout nymphs
- Prince nymphs
- Beadhead pheasant tail nymphs
- Double bead stones
- Pat’s rubber legs
- Beadhead hare’s ear
- Soft hackles
Trout/Char/Grayling Dry Flies
- Elk hair caddis
- Parachute adams
- Black gnat
- Royal humpy
- Sparkle PMD
- Assorted BWO
Best Alaskan Trout Streamers/Egg patterns
- Glo bug eggs
- Beadhead Gorman egg
- Egg sucking leech
- Dolly llama
- Flesh flies
- Wooly buggers
- Clouser minnows
- Various mouse patterns
Note: because of how vast Alaska is this list is merely a general guide and you will want to check with the area shops to find more specific patterns for the time of year and type of fish you’re targeting.
Best Alaskan Flies for Salmon and Steelhead
Spawning Salmon and Steelhead become aggressive and will eat almost anything that passes in front of them. Most of the patterns you will use to catch these ferocious fish imitate eggs, shimp, leeches or small fish. They are often brightly colored with purple, pink, orange or chartreuse marabou but more natural colored flies are also used.
Best Salmon/Steelhead Wet Flies
- Veiled assassin
- Purple or pink egg sucking leech
- Neon shrimp
- Flash fly
- Kandy kane
- Deep six
- Dolly llama
- Glo bugs
Note: because of how vast Alaska is this list is merely a general guide and you will want to check with the area shops to find more specific patterns for the time of year and type of fish you’re targeting.
Northern Pike Flies
Pike are aggressive feeders and will attack virtually any brightly colored and fast-moving fly. Their diet consists of smaller fish, frogs, rodents, and even small waterfowl.
- Flashtail whistler
- Clouser minnow
- Bunny leach
- Assorted poppers
- Moorish mouse
Want to learn more about streamer fishing?
Check out our article on Fly Fishing with Streamers
Fly Fishing Styles In Alaska
Alaska has a variety of fishing styles that can be performed. Many of the rivers you will be fishing from may require a boat or raft to cover more water. However, there are overwhelming numbers of smaller rivers and streams for the wading angler.
The style of fishing and fish you’re targeting will determine the size of your rod/reel. Here is a basic overview of rod sizes based on the species.
- King salmon – 9 – 12 weight and up
- Silver salmon and steelhead – 8-9 weight
- Sockeye and chum salmon – 7-8 weight
- Pink salmon – 5-6 weight
- Trout, char, grayling – 5-7 weight
- Pike – 8-9 weight
A few common fly fishing styles are outlined below
- Dry – Dropper – A classic trout set-up featuring a floating dry fly on top, with a trailing nymph. This method is most effective when fishing trout, char, and grayling.
- Dead drift – Dead drifting nymphs is another staple trout style and is productive in enticing a hungry trout or char.
- Streamers – There are a variety of ways to fish streamers from dead-drifting, cast and retrieve, and swinging. Streamer fishing is huge in Alaska and it is important to adjust your streamer method depending on the fish and river/lake you’re on.
- Spey Fishing – The preferred method for salmon and steelhead fishing consists of a useful two handed style of fly fishing that can cast far distances without utilizing a back cast. Spey casting is used to swing the fly into the feeding zone and allows for more water coverage.
Fly Fishing Anchorage
When planning your trip to Alaska you’re most likely going to be flying into Anchorage. There are tons of fishing to be had in the surrounding area, but also access to many other fishing locations.
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with a population of roughly 300,000. Here you will find lots of immediate lodging choices, along with rental car options.
If you’re looking at staying close to Anchorage you will not be disappointed as there are a plethora of fishing options inside and close to the city limits. Anchorage is nestled on the south central coast of Alaska at the end of the Cook Inlet. Anchorage offers easy access to some great streams; but like most places, the closer to civilization, the more crowded the waters.
Fishing around Anchorage is primarily salmon, rainbow trout, and dolly varden; it is important to pay attention to local regulations as each river may be different.
Anchorage Rental Cars
If you need reliable transportation for getting around on your own, Anchorage has several different options for rental cars.
- Avis Rental Cars
- Midnight Sun Rental Cars
- Alaska Express rental Cars
- Enterprise Rental Cars | Car Rental Anchorage Ted Stevens Intl. Airport (ANC)
- National Rental Cars Alaska | Car Rental in Anchorage Intl Airport (ANC)
If you’re looking to do some road tripping around Alaska an RV rental may be a helpful alternative than basic car rentals.
Anchorage Fly Shops/Guide Services
Once in Alaska you’ll need to pick up a license and other required tackle and flies. In addition to the link above, licenses can also be found at many gas stations or general outdoor gear stores.
There are several fly shops in Anchorage but we wanted to highlight Mossy’s Fly Shop.
Mossy’s is owned by Mike Brown who was born and raised in Anchorage and got his first fly rod when he was 10.
Mossy’s is a destination fly shop. They stock a full line of products—from rods, reels, lines, waders, apparel, tools, flies, and fly tying materials. Everything and anything one needs to be successful on the water, they carry.
We had a chance to interview Mike—a total pleasure!
Q: Are there any other fly shops outside of Anchorage that you have contact with and would recommend?
A: Yes! All of these shops are owned by great people and do a great job of servicing their areas:
- 3Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla
- Troutfitters in Cooper Landing
- Wilderness Way in Soldotna
- Big Ray’s in Fairbanks
- Situk Fly Shop in Yakutat and
- Alaska Fly Fishing Goods in Juneau
Q: What is the best Anchorage fly fishing experience in your eyes?
A: Upper Campbell Creek, great for trout in the early onset of fall but you have to be bear aware up there.
Q: What is your favorite species to fish?
Q: If you could only fish one body of water all year round what is it?
A: Kenai River
Q: When is the peak tourist season?
A: June through August
Q: What is the best water to fish during peak season?
A: That really depends on what you are looking to catch.
- Kings in June, Ship Creek
- Silvers in August, Campbell Creek
- Trout in Chester or Campbell July through Sept.
Q: What do you throw?
A: You want to have a variety of streamers, nymphs, beads, and flesh.
Q: Final thoughts??
A: We have a lot of options to fish from our roadside, get out and explore, experiment, and enjoy the beauty of Alaska. It is truly a magical experience.
Mossy’s strives to offer good customer service, and this was apparent from our communication with them—you can’t really ask for much more in a fly shop. If you are fly fishing in Anchorage, Mossy’s is a must-stop shop.
This 21-mile creek forms in the Chugach mountains where the north and south forks drain into Campbell lake before meandering through Anchorage and eventually depositing into the Cook Inlet. Campbell creek holds healthy populations of silver salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead, and dolly varden.
This is the most popular stream in Anchorage and provides the best opportunities for catching king salmon. Coho salmon are also common and both species have a strong hatchery program resulting in thousands of fish! Ship Creek is known to get pretty crowded and courteous angling practices are necessary. This crystal clear creek flows out of Ship Lake in the Chugach mountains before draining into the Cook Inlet. Besides king and silver salmon, Ship creek also supports chum salmon, rainbow trout, and dolly varden.
Eagle River is 9 miles south of Anchorage. This river is one of only a few in the area that allows the keeping of king salmon. The populations of king salmon are low and anglers are only allowed to fish for these mighty salmon on 4 consecutive 3 day-weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend.
The Eagle River is opaque due to the glacial silting (also called glacial flour; silt-sized particles of rock that empty into the streams from glaciers eroding the bedrock underneath them). This natural occurrence leaves most anglers choosing bright and flashy streamers to catch their fish.
Besides king salmon, silver and chum salmon, rainbow trout, and dolly varden can be caught here. Pay close attention to the current fishing regulations as this is a fairly protected stream with many specific guidelines.
This nice little stream runs 25 miles south of Anchorage. This is a popular fishing destination and like Campbell and Ship creek, can get crowded. Bird Creek is shallow and fast-moving causing unfortunately very few pools of holding fish. It is shallow and clear, making salmon sight fishing very productive. Bird Creek in certain spots is open all year for coho, sockeye, pink, and chum salmon.
Other Anchorage Area Rivers and Streams
- Indian Creek – a very small stream known for its pink salmon, but also boasts silvers, rainbows, and dollies.
- Glacier Creek – Named from the glaciers feeding the stream from the Chugach mountains. This small creek supports coho and pink salmon along with dolly varden.
- Twentymile River – Further from Anchorage, but easily accessible, the twenty-mile river holds abundant silver, sockeye, chum, and pink salmon with a few dolly varden.
Anchorage Area Lakes
There are numerous lakes around Anchorage that are stocked with rainbow trout and Arctic char. Pike are also common in these waters, and using a large brightly colored streamer will illicit heavy strikes from these fish. Wooly buggers, Clouser minnows, and various nymphs are the most productive for the trout and char.
Most of the lakes can be fished from the bank but using a watercraft of some type can be extra helpful.
- Beach Lake – 20 miles north of Anchorage with healthy populations of rainbow trout and Arctic grayling. Landlocked king salmon can also be found in these waters.
- Jewel Lake – A nice lake with rainbow trout and landlocked king salmon.
- Eklutna Lake – One of the larger lakes in the area and holds plenty of rainbows.
- Cheney Lake – This lake, in the middle of Anchorage has rainbows and northern pike.
- Sand Lake – West of Jewel lake which offers opportunities for rainbows, lake trout, and northerns.
Fly Fishing Kenai Peninsula
The Kenai Peninsula hosts epic fishing and is one of the most popular fishing regions in Alaska—even revered by many as the best fly fishing in Alaska. Its proximity to Anchorage and several smaller towns make the Kenai fairly accessible. The Kenai Peninsula is harbored by the Cook Inlet to the west and Prince William Sound to the east.
The Kenai Peninsula hosts several small towns with an overall population of around 55,000. The towns of Seward, Soldotna, Kenai, Sterling, Homer, and Cooper Landing are located throughout and provide highways between each town. The Sterling Highway connects the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage.
Many of the rivers and Streams in the Kenai Peninsula are in the western and northern portions. The southeastern portion is made up of the beautiful Kenai Fjords (with many plane tours of the fjords). There are several famous rivers we felt important to mention for Kenai, but there are hundreds of additional fishing opportunities here on the Peninsula.
Kenai Peninsula Fly Shops/Guide Services
With so much water to cover in the Kenai, it is important to check with the local fly shops, and possibly hire a guide to help navigate the waters.
- The Fly Box Tackle Shop | Anchor Point, AK
- Lakeview Outfitters | Cooper Landing, AK
- Dongle Haul Fly Fishing | Sterling, AK
- Alaska Fly Fishing Tours | Homer, AK
- Alaska Troutfitters | Cooper Landing, AK
- Kenai Float-N-Fish | Cooper Landing, AK
- Ken’s Alaskan Tackle | Soldotna, AK | (907) 262-6870
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Fly Fishing Lodges
Tons of lodges—from high-end resorts to primitive cabins.
- Salmon Catcher Lodge | Kenai, AK
- Cooper Landing Fish Camp | Cooper Landing, AK
- Alaska Hooksetters Lodge | Kenai, AK
- Drifter’s Lodge | Cooper Landing, AK
- Russell Fishing Company | Kenai, AK
- Angler’s Lodge | Sterling, AK
- Ninilchik Cabins and Fish Camp | Ninilchik, AK
- Soaring Eagle Lodge | Ninilchik, AK | Custom Alaska Fishing Resort Packages
Kenai Peninsula Plane Charters and Water Taxis/Ferries (Alaska Fly-in Fishing)
The road system in the Kenai Peninsula is fairly decent and will get you to most of the fishing you need. However, fly-in fishing is popular in Alaska– if you’re looking for more adventure; a float plane will take you to some great fishing spots off of the roads and away from people.
- Alaska West Air | Nikiski, AK
- High Adventure Air | Soldotna, AK
- Northwind Aviation | Homer, AK
- Talon Air Service | Soldotna, AK
Kenai Peninsula Rivers and Lakes
The Kenai River is world-famous for its huge King Salmon found in these waters, and attracts anglers from everywhere. Besides king salmon, a fly angler can get into rainbows, dolly varden, sockeye, coho, and pink salmon.
The Kenai River is broken into 3 sections the upper, middle, and lower.
1) The upper section starts as it leaves the Kenai lake and eventually deposits into Skilak Lake. Here fishing can be amazing for big rainbow trout and dolly varden.
2) The middle section runs from Skilak Lake to the Soldotna bridge. Here fishing is easier as the river is shallower and there are abundant numbers of fish.
3) The lower stretches of the Kenai start from the Soldotna bridge and meander 21 miles before emptying into the Cook Inlet. This section is where you will find world class king salmon fishing; as the world record king was pulled out of here at 97 pounds! This section is primarily fished from a boat and using bait, however there are a few opportunities to fish from shore. If you’re interested in fishing this section of river it is highly recommended you rent a fly fishing guide, as even navigating this river in your own boat can be challenging.
This 13 mile long river runs out of Upper Russian Lake into the Kenai River near Cooper Landing, AK. The Russian River features awesome fishing for rainbows and dolly vardens but their crown jewel is the sockeye salmon run. The lower section of the river from Lower Russian Lake to the confluence of the Kenai offers some of the best red salmon fishing in the world.
The upper section between the lower and upper Russian Lakes is closed to Salmon fishing and is primarily a rainbow and Dolly stream. Most of the rainbows and Dolly’s in this section will average between 15-20 inches. The most productive fishing style here for trout and dolly varden is egg patterns and flesh flies during the salmon runs, but nymphing and even some dry fly action can be productive.
The Kasilof River flows west out of Tustumena Lake for 17 mile before emptying into the Cook Inlet. The Kasilof River is known for its king and silver salmon along with steelhead fishing but also features rainbow trout, dolly varden, and pink salmon.
Drift boats are common but the Kasilof can be fished easily enough from the bank or wading. It is also fished less than the Kenai and Russian rivers, allowing for a little more seclusion.
The 21-mile-long Ninichik runs parallel to the coast and eventually cuts sharply at the small village of Ninilchik before dumping into Cook Inlet. King salmon in the spring and early summer draw many anglers, but by the fall there are ample opportunities for catching big silver salmon and steelhead. The river also supports healthy populations of rainbows and dollies
This nice little stream flows very close to the Ninilchik River and offers great fishing for fall steelhead and silver salmon. This river does not produce as much traffic as the Ninilchik and may be an alternative if you’re hoping to beat the crowds. Deep Creek also has king and pink salmon, rainbow trout, and dolly varden.
The Anchor River runs west out of the from the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula, roughly 14 miles north of Homer. Here steelhead run supreme and offer some of the best chrome fishing in Kenai. The Anchor River is also the spawning grounds for all 5 of the pacific salmon, along with rainbows and dolly varden. This is also a great place to explore on your own as it’s small and clear enough to wade.
This beautiful little stream offers some of the best dolly varden fishing in the Kenai Peninsula. Although the Quartz has salmon runs, it is prohibited to target them. Fishing access is easy here and there can be numerous fishing spots along the Sterling Highway. The creek flows south eventually emptying into the Kenai Lake
Other Kenai Peninsula Rivers and Lakes
- Placer River – Flows into the Turnagain Arm and offers fishing opportunities for silver, chum, and pink salmon, along with dolly varden.
- Salmon Creek – Nice little creek for pink salmon and dolly varden
- Moose River – Flows through Sterling, AK into the Kenai River. Sockeye and coho are the main fish with some king, pink, dollies and rainbows.
- Grayling Lake – A fairly easy lake to reach about 15 miles north of Seward that offers great fly fishing for Arctic grayling.
- Hidden Lake – North of Skilak Lake and about a mile west of the upper Kenai River. One of the few lakes that holds landlocked red salmon, referred to as Kokanee Salmon. Rainbow trout and dolly varden are also prevalent.
Fly Fishing Southeastern Alaska
For simplicity’s sake, we have separated Southeastern Alaska into two categories; Upper Southeastern Alaska and Lower Southeastern Alaska.
1) Upper Southeastern Fly Fishing
We have broken down upper southeastern Alaska as the areas around Juneau, Haines/Skagway, Yakutat, and Baranof Island.
Juneau, the state capital of Alaska is seated in the northern reaches of the archipelago of southeastern Alaska. Juneau is only accessible by plane or ferry along the Alaskan Maritime Highway (a sea route used by ferries and other commercial boats). Besides Anchorage, Juneau would be the most likely place to fly into.
Upper Southeastern Fly Shops and Guide Services
Upper Southeastern Fly Fishing Lodges/Guides
- Bear Creek Outfitters | Juneau, AK
- Yakutat Lodge | Yakutat, AK
- Yakutat Situk Inn | Yakutat, AK
- Elfin Cove Resort | Elfin Cove, AK
- Glacier Bay Country Inn | Gustavus, AK
Upper Southeastern Float Plane Charters and Ferries
Because of the limited road system in Southeastern Alaska, fly in fishing and water taxis will be the only way to reach these destinations.
- Alaska Seaplanes (Several locations) | Juneau, Haines, AK
- Ward Air | Juneau, AK
- Yakutat Coastal Airlines
Ferries and Water Taxis
- Juneau Ferry Terminal | Juneau, AK
- Juneau Charters Water Taxi | Juneau, AK
- Alaska Sea to Shore Water Taxis | Juneau, AK
- Haines Skagway Fast Ferry | Haines, Skagway, AK
Juneau Area Rivers and Lakes
Cowee Creek/Echo Cove
This little stream is easily accessible from Juneau, and in less than an hour’s drive you can be wetting your line in the Cowee. This is a glacier-fed stream causing some glacial silt; but several smaller tributaries run crystal clear to help with the Cowee’s transparency. The creek emptying into Echo Cove; a local favorite saltwater fishery.
There is a small run of steelhead but the main prize is the silver salmon. The fall run of these highly sought-after fish can bring in the crowds; but there is easy walking upstream and downstream from Glacier Highway to beat the crowds. Closer to the mouth you will find Dolly Varden and cutthroat trout. The Cowee Creek receives a healthy run of pink salmon in August.
The Montana Creek offers excellent fishing very close to Juneau. This shallow and narrow creek flows through the Mendenhall Valley before emptying into the Mendenhall River. Fishing pressure can be high due to the proximity of Juneau. Montana Creek holds coho salmon, dolly varden, and cutthroats.
Peterson Creek just north of Juneau has excellent fishing opportunities for dolly varden and cutthroats. Here is where you will have better luck hooking into a steelhead than any other streams around Juneau. This creek is fairly small and easily accessible from the bank or wading. The river seldom gets bigger than 25 ft.
Haines and Skagway Area Rivers
Skagway, AK is a small southeastern village of roughly 2,000 people. This beautiful area is hard to access but doable from the Juneau ferry. A ferry ride can also take someone from Skagway to the neighboring village of Haines; only 15 miles away. The Alaskan highway connects to this area by the Haines Highway, which runs north of town. From Skagway you can also access the Klondike highway which connects to more routes across the border in Canada.
The Chilkoot River starts in the Takshanuk Mountains and flows 20 miles emptying into the Chilkoot Inlet. This is a popular river for sockeye salmon, with coho, pink, and chum also calling the Chilkoot their home.
The river offers opportunities for floating but wading is also manageable. Dolly varden are common in the spring as they chase salmon smolts for easy meals.
The southwest neighbor river to the Chilkoot starts at the Chilkat Glacier and for 17 miles meanders through British Columbia before returning back to Alaska for another 37 miles until finally draining into the Chilkat Inlet.
The river has a run-off period making the water un-fishable for most of the spring and summer. Fishing here is best in the spring before run-off for dolly varden and cutthroat. By September the river starts to run clear again giving way to silver and chum runs.
Yakutat Area Rivers
The Yakutat area is the most northern part of southeastern Alaska. Yakutat is only accessible by ferry or plane, making this area even more remote and pristine. There are several rivers and streams here that due to difficulty in reaching, are seldom fished. If you have the opportunity to visit Yakutat, you will find some of the best steelhead fishing in Alaska.
Of all the steelhead rivers in the Yakutak area, the Situk River is the most famous. The Situk starts 20 miles outside of Yakutat at Mountain Lake. Here the river flows forming the Situk Lake and drains out towards the coast with the Old Situk River joining halfway.
The steelhead start their spring run in April and May, with a strong fall run from September through November. This is also a great time for catching cohos and host some of the better coho numbers in southeastern Alaska. During the summer dolly varden and rainbows can be caught, with king, pink, and sockeye salmon frequently fished as well.
Baranof Island Rivers
Just outside of the town of Sitka lies Cascade Creek. This small creek holds large numbers of pink salmon and dolly varden. The river is easy to wade but the banks tend to be full of brush the further upstream you get; therefore the best fishing is near the mouth of the creek.
South of Sitka is the Indian River; a popular dolly varden stream in the summers. This is a gentle river barely over 25 feet wide in most places, and only a few feet deep. This river has salmon runs but intentionally targeting them is illegal. There is a small number of steelhead in the spring as well.
This easily accessible creek is located 5 miles southeast of Sitka. Sawmill Creek is a nice little fishery that will get a small steelhead run in early May, along with coho, pink, and chum salmon. The rainbow trout fishing can be good here too, with some Arctic char scattered throughout.
Other Upper Southeastern Alaska Rivers and Lakes
- Taiya River – Just north of Skagway – this popular stream is best in the spring and the fall as the glacial silt increases in the summer. Plenty of dolly varden, pink, chum, and coho Salmon.
- Pullen Creek – This creek runs through Skagway with a lot of access points.
- Fish Creek – Located across from Juneau on Douglas Island this stream has good numbers of chum and king salmon.
- Auke Lake – Great lake for coho and cutthroats; along with catch and release for dollies and red salmon. Located just northwest of Juneau.
2) Lower Southeastern Alaska Fly Fishing
In lower Southeastern Alaska we are considering Ketchikan area, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell Island, and Mitkof Island.
Lower Southeastern Alaska Fly Shops and Fly Fishing Guides
The fly shops are fairly limited in lower Southeastern Alaska and we recommend stocking up at fly fishing goods in Juneau, which is where you’ll most likely be coming from.
- Anderson Lodge | Thorne Bay, Prince of Wales | The Tackle Shack at Thorne Bay | Outfitters
- 56 degrees north | Wrangell | Wrangell Island
- Southeast Alaska Fly Shop | Wrangell | Wrangell Island, AK
- Pacific Pride – Ketchikan
Lower Southeastern Alaska Fly Fishing Lodges
- Chinook Shores Lodge | Ketchikan, AK
- TreeTops Lodge – Thorne Bay – Prince of Wales Island TreeTops Lodge Thorne Bay Alaska
- Anderson Lodge – Thorne Bay, Prince of Wales
- FireWeed Lodge – Klawock, Prince of Wales
- Coffman Cove Bears Den – Coffman Cove, Prince of Wales Alaska Self Guided Fishing
- Island Point Lodge | Petersburg, AK
Lower Southeastern Alaska Float Planes and Water Taxis
Southeastern Alaska fly in fishing options
- Family Air Tours | Ketchikan, AK
- Southeast Aviation | Ketchikan, AK
- Island Air Express | Klawock, Prince of Wales
- Pacific Wings | Petersburg | Mitkof Island
- US Dept Transportation Ferry Terminal | Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, AK
- Breakaway Adventures | Wrangell, AK
- Kupreanof Kab Water Taxi | Petersburg, AK
Ketchikan Area Rivers and Lakes
Ketchikan is one of the larger villages in southeastern Alaska. With roughly 13,000 citizens the town is primarily a commercial fishing port. Although there are roads here, the easiest way to get around Ketchikan is by boat or plane.
Ketchikan boasts a mild oceanic climate resulting in great runs of Salmon, steelhead, and trout.
There’s not much for river fishing but some lakes with fine fishing do exist.
This small creek is nestled 18 miles north of Ketchikan that is easily accessible by car from Highway 7. Lunch Creek flows into Settlers Cove which can offer some exciting saltwater fishing for pink and chum salmon.
Lunch creek itself is barely 15 ft wide in some places and only a few feet deep.The best fishing can be had closer to the mouth where it opens up a little bit and salmon can be found cruising the brackish waters.
Ward Creek is probably the most well-known river near Ketchikan and it lies 8 miles north off of the North Tongass Highway. It’s an easy creek to negotiate, even at 40 -50 wide it is fairly shallow. There are still large pools scattered throughout that will hold decent size salmon and some steelhead. The creek also holds Dollys and Cutthroats. The creek flows out of Ward Lake for some stillwater fishing.
Prince of Wales Island Rivers and Lakes
Prince of Wales is west of Ketchikan and can be reached by ferry or plane. The island is over 2,000 square miles and holds countless streams. Steelhead are the main draw and some of the best chrome fishing in Alaska. There are some advanced road systems due to the logging business, however many of the rivers are harder to reach and may require a float plane.
The Thorne is the largest river on the Island; centrally located it runs southeast and emptying in the town of Thorne Bay. The river is 25 long in total and approximately 75 feet wide in most places. The river is deep going down as far as 20 feet in certain places. This is an easy stream to navigate on your own and can pursue all salmon species except for chinooks. There are also steelhead, and sea run cutthroats.
Situated on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island; the Klawock River is home to coho, red, chum, and pink salmon. The river also has a spring and fall run of steelhead, along with dolly varden and cutthroat trout. The river averages 60 feet wide and offers good trails and bank fishing throughout.
The Harris River runs south of the town of Hollis in the central/eastern part of the island. This is one of the bigger rivers on Prince of Wales Island at about 75 feet in most places. This is a great place for catching steelhead, in addition to, pink, silver, and chum salmon.
Wrangell Island Rivers and Lakes
A very small island worth mentioning for its abundant supply of rivers and steelhead. Like most of southeastern Alaska, it is only accessible by ferry or plane, but the island is surprisingly well supplied with roads and easy fishing access. The 2,000 town of Wrangell sits on the northern tip of the island, and is where the main services can be found.
This is a fairly small creek located in the center of the island and runs east. The river is barely 25 feet in most areas but supplies a healthy population of spring and fall steelhead. Some decent size cutthroat can be found in Salamander Creek as well.
Thoms Creek and Thoms Lake
Thoms lake is situated in the southwestern portion of the island. Thoms creek flows from the lake south emptying into the sea. Steelhead and cutthroat are the primary targets for anglers, but salmon can also be caught.
Thoms lake is about a mile hike up from the Thoms creek road. The lake itself is 2 miles long and about a half mile wide. Thoms lake has just about everything from pink, silver, and steelhead. The lake also has some big dolly varden present with some big Sea run Cutthroat trout.
Mitkof Island Rivers
North of Wrangell this small island is only accessible by ferry or plane. It doesn’t host an abundance of fisheries but some spots worth noting. Petersburg is the home to about 3,000 people.
Just across the harbor from Petersburg on Kupreanof Island is Petersburg Creek. This stream is a quick boat ride from Petersburg and hosts one of the best spring steelhead runs in the area. Later in the season char and cutthroat trout are the main focus, followed by a strong coho run in the fall. The river is easy to wade and navigate; and coupled with its proximity to Petersburg, does get a fair share of pressure.
Bear Creek is known for their spring steelhead run and fantastic cutthroat fishing in the summer. There is also a good run of silver and pink salmon in the fall. It is an easy river to access and wade through.
The blind river is located south of Petersburg and known for its fall run of coho salmon. The river also manages a hatchery for king and silver salmon. The river is also known for its sea run cutthroat trout and some steelhead.
Other Lower Southeastern Alaska Rivers and Lakes
- Twelvemile Creek – Prince of Wales island. Great fishing for Silver, Pink, and Chum salmon.
- Cable Creek – Prince of Wales Island. Centrally located; able to find spring steelhead, and pink, silver, and chum salmon.
- Twin Island Lake – Prince of Wales Island, cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden.
Fly Fishing Interior Alaska
Alaska has the fewest roads than any other state, and only a handful of highways to reach interior alaskan cities. The largest city in interior Alaska is Fairbanks and we will use Fairbanks as our focal point. Because of the limited roads we have identified fishing waters based on the road system.
There are several highways that connect Fairbanks to the southern part of the state, Canada, and the northern Arctic coast. For our guide we have identified Dalton, Elliot, and Steese highways, along with Chena Hot Springs road are the main roads that we are labeling as Northern Interior Alaska.
Alternatively, Parks, Denali, Richardson, and Alaskan highways are used to refer to southern Interior Alaska and represent the areas south of Fairbanks to Anchorage.
Because of how large Alaska is, many traveling anglers could spend years trying to fish all of the interior waters Alaska has to offer and only make a dent. We chose the most common rivers and areas a traveler may come across if they spent time adventuring around inland Alaska.
The further inland you go in Alaska the less salmon fishing there is and more trout, char, grayling, and pike fishing you will find. Although salmon are known to swim thousands of miles upstream you will find salmon fishing closed or impractical due to their physical conditions in a lot of these inland waters.
Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska with a metro population of just under 100,000 people. The main industry around Fairbanks is petroleum, natural gas, coal, mining, and logging, and most of the residents work in one of these fields. Next to Anchorage and Juneau, Fairbanks is the next likely city you would be flying in from and a good central location of the state. We will not discuss the arctic region in this guide but for those wanting to explore the islating northern reaches of Alaska will do so from Fairbanks.
Fairbanks Rental Cars
- Enterprise Car Rental Fairbanks
- Alaska Auto Rental
- Arctic Rent A-Car
- Go North Alaska Car and RV Rental
Fairbanks Fly Shops and Guide Services
- Big Rays – offer any and all outdoor gear you can think of.
- Alaska Fishing and Raft Adventures
- AK Fish Charters
Fairbanks Fly Fishing Lodges
- Alaska Fly In Fishing
- Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge
Fairbanks Charter Float Planes
- 40-mile Air
- Wright Air Service
Southern Interior Alaska Fly Fishing
Anchorage to Fairbanks (George Parks Highway)
The highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks is the George Parks Highway and approximately 350 miles long, and features some of the best fishing inland Alaska has to offer. The main towns along this route include Willow, Talkeetna, McKinley Park, Cantwell, and Nenana. None of these towns are big by any means but they do have basic amenities such as lodging; especially as you get closer to Denali National Park.
Fly Shops/Guide Services George Parks Highway
- Just Fly In | Talkeetna, AK
- Talkeetna Wilderness River Fishing Guides | Talkeetna, AK
- Dave Fish Alaska River Guides | Talkeetna, AK
- Phantom Tri-River Charters | Talkeetna, AK
- Ultimate Rivers Charters | Healy, AK
Fly Fishing Lodges George Parks Highway
- Deshka Landing Charters and Lodge | Willow, AK
- Talaheim Lodge and Air Services | Willow, AK
- Talkeetna Fishing Lodge | Talkeetna, AK
Anchorage to Fairbanks Rivers (George Parks Highway)
Little Susitna River
The little Susitna provides an angler with opportunities to catch all 5 salmon species along with rainbows, graylings, and arctic char. The main attraction here however, is the chinook salmon run starting at the end of May through July. With the chinooks gaining most of the recognition, the coho Salmon fishing can be amazing in August in September.
The river is relatively flat and wide, ideal for floating, but still accessible for the wading angler. Floating can be a helpful way to avoid the plethora of fisherman during the chinook season, but later by August the crowds start to thin out. This is also the ideal time to hook into a large rainbow or dolly.
Willow Creek is well known for its King Salmon run and some revere this river as the best king salmon fishery in Alaska, with fish over 60 pounds caught here every year. The creek runs north of the town of Willow; a little over an hour away from Anchorage. The end of June and early July is when the kings start entering the creek; this is also the most popular time for angling meaning some very crowded fishing. If you can stand the crowds you may be rewarded with a fish of a lifetime.
Later in the season silver salmon enters the creek and will remain until September. Dog salmon are also plentiful and will grow very large here. Rainbows and dollys are abundant as well and tend to follow the spawning salmon gorging on eggs and decomposed salmon.
This is another famous king salmon fishery, However it does not compare to the giant kings in Willow Creek, the chance at catching a 50 pound King here is very plausible. Three forks of the montana creek form the main stem. The river is fairly small and clear waters with a gravel bottom make wading easy.
Outside of the king salmon run; Montana Creek has a healthy run of cohos, pink and chum salmon. The fishing for rainbow trout can be exceptional in the spring and fall. Like Willow Creek, this river sees its fair share of anglers and respectful fishing etiquette is required.
The Chena River lies north of the town of Nenana and it’s the last decent stream before hitting Fairbanks. The chena is another awesome chinook Salmon fishery, but also boasts a nice chum salmon run later in July.
Valdez to Fairbanks Fly Fishing (Richardson Highway)
The commercial fishing port of Valdez sits on the eastern side of Prince William Sound. It was originally founded as a gold rush town in the early 20th century. Now it is home to roughly 4,000 people. Valdez is also the start of the Richardson Highway and runs for 360 miles to Fairbanks. As Valdez is primarily an ocean charter town, there are some services further along the highway.
Fly Fishing Shops/Guides Richardson Highway
- Alaska River Wrangellers – Copper Center
- Copper River Guides – Copper Center
- New Skies Scenic Rafting and Fishing – Gakona AK
Fly Fishing Lodges Richardson Highway
- Wild West Klutina Lodge | Copper Center
- Salmon Grove Campground and Fishing Charters | Copper Center
Valdez to Fairbanks Rivers (Richardson Highway)
The Robe River is not far from the town of Valdez and offers fishing for sockeye, coho, and pink salmon, as well as Dolly Varden. The river flows from Robe Lake and empties into the Lowe River right before the Port of Valdez. This is a wide stream, stretching 90 ft in some spots, however this is still a prefered wading river. Robe Lake is currently closed to salmon fishing but the Dolly Varden fishing here can be worthwhile in September.
Approximately 100 miles north from Valdez off of the Richardson highways you will find the Klutina River. This is a popular king salmon stream, but more well known for red salmon. This river is better suited for the wading fisherman as fallen trees are common, causing challenges navigating the river by raft. Arctic grayling and char can also be found in these waters.
One of the better rivers along the Richardson Highway; the Gulkana river runs parallel to the road most of the time. This is a good size river but offers easy wading in many spots. The fish here are king and red salmon with rainbows and dollys mixed throughout. This river runs clear, even with heavy rains. The river is flat and wide making for easy floating, along with abundant highway crossings; putting in and taking out is simple.
Denali Highway Fly Fishing
Denali National Park and Preserve is a large national park situated within the Alaskan Range. The park is home to the tallest mountain in North America; Denali (formally called McKinley). The park was established in the early 20th century.
Today more than half a million visitors travel to see this magnificent park. The waters here are not as popular as many other areas in Alaska but if you’re making your way to the park and wanted to stop for a few hours and fish we have identified a couple options for you.
Denali Fly Shops/Guide Services
- Denali Fly Fishing Guides | Cantwell, AK
- Adventure Denali | Denali National Park
- Denali Mountain Works | McKinley Park
- Fish Denali Day Fishing Trips | Cantwell, AK
Denali Highway Rivers
Tangle Lakes and Tangle River
Tangle lakes are a series of interconnected lakes that the Denali Highway crosses. The lakes are connected by streams making for easy access between lakes. These are popular lakes for catching Grayling and Lake trout. Lake trout will be easier to find in the spring and fall usually around inlets and outlets of streams.
Only a couple miles west of the Tangle Lakes; the Denali highway crosses Rock Creek. This is a tough creek to fish due to bugs and brush lined banks. If you are able to manage a well roll cast, you could be rewarded with some nice Arctic grayling.
Other Southern Interior Alaska Rivers and Lakes
- Goose Creek – Accessed by Parks Highway; this nice little stream is ideal for wading and holds small numbers of salmon and rainbow trout.
- Troublesome Creek – Located off of Parks Highway and is small stream fishing for Grayling, rainbows and a few salmon.
- Thompson Lake – Roughly 25 miles north of Valdez on Richardson Highway; rainbows, char, and grayling can be caught here.
- Tonsina River – About 75 miles north of Valdez on Richardson Highway lies the small Tonsina River, good for salmon.
- Sevenmile Lake – located 7 miles into the Denali Highway (from the town of Paxson) – beautiful lake with lake trout.
Northern Interior Alaska Fly Fishing
North of Fairbanks lies the Dalton Highway which extends 300 miles to the north coast of Alaska crossing over the arctic circle on the way. You will also find the Elliot and Streese Highways in these areas. These northern areas are remote and wild, even the easily accessible waters seldom see anglers, making for a truly special experience. For even more remote fishing a hired float plane can take you to some rivers and lakes that have never seen a fisherman before.
All of the services for the northern Interior can be found in our Fairbanks section above.
Northern Interior Rivers and Lakes
One of the more consistent fisheries in the area; Birch Creek can be located from the Steese Highway outside of Fairbanks. This is primarily wading water but it’s not impossible to float, although there are steep gradients causing rough water in spots. As you get closer to the mouth at the Yukon River the creek becomes unfishable due to silting. Birch creek is home to resident Grayling some upwards of 18 inches are common.
This large creek can be reached by the Dalton Highway north of Fairbanks. There is plenty of access along the creek, and wading is very easy. The primary target in this crystal clear creek is Grayling which will often take a small dry fly or virtually any beadhead nymph.
The Chatanika is accessible from the Elliot Highway which starts just several miles north of Fairbanks. This is one of the few Salmon Fisheries this far north, with king and chum the main ones. Because of the long distance they have traveled from the ocean they are usually in rough shape and not worth keeping. There are also northern pike in this river and can be an exciting change of pace for many anglers burnt out on the primary grayling fishing in these areas.
The Chena River can be accessed from the Chena Hot Springs Road; northeast of Fairbanks. The road follows the river for about 30 miles with abundant fishing sites and campgrounds along the way. This is a strictly catch and release grayling fishery with some pushing 20 plus inches. The river is very slow and clear, making for easy wading. The river splits into north, south and middle forks all offering additional angling experiences.
Middle Fork Koyukuk River
This medium sized river is and crosses the Dalton Highway at several locations. This is great water for catching Arctic char and grayling. The Koyukuk is very easy to wade or bank fish, with opportunities to launch a watercraft.
This is the most northerly river we’re featuring and it is home to some very large Grayling. The river is crossed by the Dalton Highway at several spots making for easy access. Jim river is mainly for wading but it is possible to launch a small boat or raft. The river is fast in some spots that offer wonderful pocket water and deeper holes.
Other Northern Interior Alaska Rivers
- Nome Creek – off of the Steese Highway, okay grayling fishing and a place to pan for gold.
- Angel Creek – Off of Chena Hot Springs Road, best fishing is at the mouth where it feeds into the north fork of the Chena River. Large Grayling can be found in this tranquil stream.
- Baker Creek – Found off of the Elliot Highway, this offers good Grayling fishing.
- Prospect Creek – Can be reached from Dalton Highway. Grayling and Pike can be found here.
Fly Fishing Bristol Bay Alaska (Southwestern Region)
Bristol Bay encompasses the water between southwestern Alaska and the Alaskan Peninsula. This area is as wild as they come. The area is secluded and belongs mostly to the bears, moose, and caribou that call it home. Here there are very few villages and no road system. The only way of transportation is by boat or plane. Western Alaska, especially the Bristol Bay region can have harsh and unpredictable weather conditions, it is important to pack well when planning your trip.
This is a place very few anglers have had the pleasure of fishing. Most of the fly fishers that get the opportunity to fish these wild waters usually stay in one of the plentiful fly in lodges. These are generally high end for the wealthiest of visitors. If you have the money this could be the trip of a lifetime.
Although most people will utilize some level of guide and lodge, it is still possible to travel this area alone. You will need to still plan for individual drop off and pick ups usually overnight. This can cause issues with excess gear and food to spend the night.
Because western Alaska is huge! And greets less travelers than other locations, we felt it only necessary to name a few of the more popular rivers, and rivers that are somewhat easier to reach. Obviously planning a trip to Western Alaska is going to take some planning. We hope this section can help you get started.
With the plethora of rivers and fly fishing lodges we broke the region into upper and lower Bristol Bay. In our imaginary boundaries, both areas are very close together and make up only approximately 10,000 square miles—fairly small in Alaskan terms.
1) Lower Bristol Bay Alaska Fly Fishing
We are defining the lower Bristol Bay region south of Kvichak River and Lliamna Lake. Lower Bristol Bay also includes the Katmai National Park and preserve, which is designed to keep this area and its 18 volcanoes in pristine condition.
Katmai park is also a stronghold for thousands of brown bears that live here surviving off the rich, salmon packed rivers. Brooks river is one such location that attracts tons of visitors each year hoping to snap the perfect photo of these salmon-eating Brown Bears.
Like all areas in Western Alaska there is not interconnected highways or major roadways. Some of the villages may have a few roads within town limits, but making boat or plane your only option of travel. Most of the lodges we’ve featured will provide or help provide charter plane service to pick you up from Anchorage (most likely) and bring you to the lodge.
If you are traveling on your own without a guide/lodge you will find minimal services in the few villages scattered about. King Salmon and Naknek are the biggest villages that lie on edge of Katmai National Park and Kvichak Bay and together only comprise of roughly 1,000 people.
Lower Bristol Bay Fly Fishing Lodges
- Alaska Sportsman Lodge | King Salmon, AK
- Alagnak Lodge | King Salmon, AK
- Katmai Lodge | King Salmon, AK
- Alaska Rainbow Lodge | Levelok, AK
- Alaska Trophy Adventures | King Salmon, AK
- Copper River Lodge | Iliamna, AK
- Rainbow King Lodge | Iliamna, AK
- Brooks Lodge | Brooks River, AK
Lower Bristol Bay Plane Charters
Lower Bristol Bay Rivers
Alagnak River/Kukaklek River
The Alagnak is a good river for planning your fishing trip. It is near the town of King Salmon which offers charter flights from Anchorage. This is a big river and a popular float to locals and visitors alike. This river hosts several lodges and guide services, but is also easily accessed by solo fisherman.
The Alagnak is formed by the confluence of the Kukaklek and Nonvianuk rivers. The Alagnak is known for its run of red salmon in July. Besides the red salmon you can catch the remaining 4 types of salmon, with silvers offering an exciting run for anglers.
If you are wanting to find something more secluded than the already secluded Alagnak then the Kukaklak is a good bet. It is 17 miles long from its source of the Kukaklek lake until it forms the Alagnak. This river offers some faster water and tougher rapids to navigate, however outside of the rapids lie great water for big trout, including lake trout that enter the river from the lake. Besides trout an angler can find char and salmon in this stretch of water.
A popular river for catching giant trout; the Naknek river, flows out of Naknek Lake flowing into Kvickek Bay and passing through the village of King Salmon. Kvickek is famous for its very large trout but also hosts a strong run of sockeye, king, and silver Salmon.
The river offers the best trout fishing near the source at the Naknek Lake. The lower section of the river gets wide and deep. This along with minimal features make it hard for fly fishers and more suitable for trolling with deep rigs.
The best time to fish the Naknek is during the fall the sockeye spawn offers food for the resident rainbows. By September and early October the rainbow trout fishing is some of the best. There are lots of small tributaries throughout the river that offer tons of alternative fishing spots to explore if you are staying for a few days.
This popular western Alaskan river flows out of Brooks lake and empties into the Naknek Lake. The river features some well traveled trails, visitor center, campgrounds and lodges. The Brooks river is easily fishable and wadable making it a perfect place for the fly fisher.
The Brooks river features rainbow trout, char, and arctic grayling. The river also has great sockeye and silver salmon runs during the summer and fall. The best time to visit is in late august and early September. Egg patterns and flesh flies will work best. The Brooks River is known for their Grizzly Bears and is a popular place for viewing and photographing these large mammals.
Kvickhak River lies in the southern section of Western alaska where the Alaskan Peninsula starts. It flows out of the Iliamna Lake and travels 50 miles before draining into Bristol Bay. The river can be reached from King Salmon. The town of Igiugig at the source of the river is a helpful place to rent a cabin or boat.
The best fishing is from the Iliamna Lake down to a braided section that features a maze of channels and islands. Below the braids the river gains several tributaries causing it to open up and deepen, making any fishing here virtually impossible without a boat or heavy spin or bait fishing gear. The main attraction is the large rainbow trout, outside of the Nankuk River; the Kvichak is the best chance of hooking a 30 plus inch rainbow. Sockeyes are also popular with a small silver run in the fall.
Other Lower Bristol Bay Rivers and Lakes
- Copper River – Tributary of Iliamna Lake – small stream that holds rainbows and successful dry fly fishing.
- Kulik River – very small river that connects Nonvianuk lake and Kulik Lake. Known for Rainbow trout and Sockeye Salmon.
- American Creek/Hammersley Lake – Wild and pristine river that flows out of Hammersley Lake high in the Walatka mountains. Good river for rainbow and char. Hammersley lake is known for its lake trout.
2) Upper Bristol Bay Alaska Fly Fishing
Further north from the Kvichik River and into the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge we are defining as upper Bristol Bay. A truly remote area with endless miles of streams, trails, and lakes that could keep an angler busy for a lifetime.
There are many lodges in this area, with many of them based out of the quaint fishing village of Dillingham. Dilligham is the biggest town in this region of Bristol Bay and would probably be the starting point for your Bristol Bay adventure.
Additionally, the town of Bethel sits northwest of Dilligham and is the largest town in western Alaska at roughly 6,000 people. Although a little further than many of the waters featured here (150 – 250 air miles) it could provide another useful starting point into this desolate area.
Upper Bristol Bay Fly Fishing Lodges
- Goodnews River Lodge | Goodnews Bay, AK
- Alaska West Lodge | Quinhagak, AK
- Togiak River Lodge | Togiak, AK
- Western Alaska Sport Fishing | Aleknagik, AK
- Tikchik Narrows Lodge | Dillingham, AK
- Bristol Bay Lodge | Dillingham, AK
- Alaska’s BearClaw Lodge | Twin Hills, AK
Upper Bristol Bay Float Plane Charters
Upper Bristol Bay Rivers
The Nushagak River flows north of Iliamna Lake, flowing south until emptying into the Nushagaek Bay in northern Bristol Bay. The Nushagak River and its tributaries cover thousands of square acres. The Nushagek River proper is almost 300 miles long picking up small streams and decent size rivers along the way. There are several guides and lodges that host the Nushagak and its tributaries, which is the easiest way to reach these isolated waters.
The upper river lends itself well to the fly angler as the river offers some good pocket water and possible dry fly action for rainbow trout, Arctic char and grayling. After the Mulchatna and Nuyakuk rivers join the river picks up heavily making a very deep and wide river.
King Salmon are the featured species in this drainage as thousands of kings use these waters to spawn. The lower stretches hold most of the large Kings, which are virtually impossible to find without a boat. There are also healthy runs of Sockeye, silver and chum salmon.
A pristine and wild river, the Kanektok is about 90 miles long from its source at Kagati Lake. This is a great fly fishing stream as it offers abundant rainbow trout, along with smaller and more manageable sized kings for a fly rod. You can reach the river by float plane from either KIng Salmon or Dillingham. The upper river features a typical mountain stream that eventually turns into a flat gravel bottom river; perfect for salmon.
This river offers the opportunity to catch all 5 salmon species, along with rainbows, dolly varden and Arctic grayling. The season generally starts in June when the king and chum salmon enter the river to spawn. Later in the summer sockeye and pink salmon spawn followed by coho in August. This is a river that has very specific guidelines and small windows to keep fish.
Slightly further south than the Kanektok River; the Goodnews river is smaller than its northern neighbor but still holds respectable fish populations; primarily rainbow trout, coho salmon, and char. The River starts in the Ahklun mountains as several smaller tributaries before forming the main stem of the river. Like all areas in Southwestern Alaska it is only accessible by float plane from Bethel or Dillingham.
This is a floating river with a few guides and lodges that can host the traveling angler. The most popular time to fish the river is in August during the coho salmon run. The river is relatively small with deep holes where Silvers can often be found. Like many bigger Alaskan rivers a sink tip or shooting head line is preferred.
Other Upper Bristol Bay Fly Fishing Rivers and Lakes
- Aniak River – Very remote river; known for Silver and King salmon, with good stocks of Rainbow, Char, and Grayling.
- Togiak River – Upper sections hold rainbows and Char, with strong salmon runs in the lower stretches.
- Wood River Lakes – a series of interconnected lakes. It has a road leading to Aleknagik Lake from Dillingham. Great rainbow and salmon fishing in these waters.
Fly Fishing Kodiak Island
Kodiak archipelago is a series of islands in the gulf of Alaska. Kodiak island is the largest at approximately 3500 square miles. The island boasts a mountainous and heavily forested landscape.
Kodiak island is also home to the brown bear subspecies, the Kodiak Bear. Kodiak bears are known to be slightly larger than their mainland counterparts; the Grizzly Bear. Like most places in Alaska, being bear aware is essential.
The island is mostly visited through planes but there is a ferry that rides from Homer. However this is a long ride (roughly 10-15 hours depending on weather). There are some roads on the island, although they are mostly constricted to the eastern side of the island around the town of Kodiak. For anglers, Kodiak Island is a real treat to visit and seldom people are able to make the trip.
Kodiak is where you will find most of your services. The city of 6000 is the largest on the island, with another 7000 scattered through smaller settlements across the island. The island itself survives off of commercial fishing for salmon, crab, and Halibut. Because there is a small road system we are going to focus on the more accessible waters.
Kodiak Island Fly Shops and Guides
Kodiak Island Lodges and Hotels
- Saltery Lake Lodge | Kodiak, AK
- Zachery Bay Lodge | Kodiak, AK
- Larsen Bay Lodge | Larsen Bay, AK
- Kodiak Island Resort | Larsen Bay, AK
Kodiak Island Plane Charters and Water Taxis/Ferries
Kodiak Island Rivers and Lakes
The first featured river for Kodiak Island is the Buskin River; located just outside of the town of Kodiak, the river supports healthy populations of rainbows, steelhead, along with pink, silver, and red salmon.
The river starts at Buskin Lake before flowing 4 miles south into Chiniak Bay. A road runs parallel to the river offering ample opportunities for fishing. Because of its proximity to Kodiak this river gets its fair share of fishing pressure especially in the lower stretches.
Olds River is another easily accessible stream off of the Kodiak highway and in the southeastern portion of the island. The upper stream is prime char waters with deep pools and rifles. Besides char; coho, pink, and chum salmon are found here.
American River is another great stream off of the road system. The river itself is 5 miles long with several smaller tributaries joining in before draining into Chiniak Bay. The lower section of the river holds plenty of salmon starting their journey upstream to spawn. Further upstream the river features more pools and longer runs, great water for dolly varden.
A popular river on Kodiak Island requires a float plane to access. The river starts at Karluk Lake about 20 miles from the town of Karluk. The lake fishing here can be awesome with rainbows and dollys making up the majority of fish. The river changes shape from its source to slow moving meadows and fast whitewater. The river eventually flows into Karluk Lagoon, where low tide offers additional fishing opportunities for cruising salmon.The river holds rainbow trout and char in its upper sections with some steelhead and coho salmon in late September.
The last river we will feature is the Ayakulik. Another remote river the Ayakulik runs in the southwestern portion of the island. This one is only accessible by floatplane and is a short distance from Kodiak. The Ayakulik is one of the better salmon producers on the island and sees thousands of salmon in a season. The main species here is the sockeye and pink, with a healthy run of silver and kings as well. Steelhead can also be caught here in late September to late October.
Other Kodiak Island Rivers
- Uganik River – Accessible by plane a short ride outside of Kodiak. A large run of red and pink salmon with big char and decent size Rainbows.
- Roslyn Creek – one of the last rivers on the southern road system. This small creek offers angling for pink salmon, and some smaller runs of silver and chum salmon.
- Solanie Creek – Decent size creek off of the highway. Good salmon fishing below the highway and good char fishing above.