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Tips For Pacific Salmon Fly Fishing in Alaska

Tips For Pacific Salmon Fly Fishing in Alaska

Fishing for Pacific Salmon has over the last few years become increasingly popular with British Anglers. With the sad demise of our own home Atlantic Salmon fishing, many anglers have decided to travel further abroad to get a bend in their rods. Customers travelling with us to these destinations for the first time never have high expectations, as after many years of hard fishing they have become conditioned into thinking that if they get a few fish it will be a great trip.

Imagine their surprise, when it’s not uncommon to catch more Salmon in their first days fishing than they have in the last 3 years fishing at home. However, as we hear with the sceptics, Pacific Salmon do not fight. Oh, how wrong are they and anyone who has fished for all species of Salmon will know the truth. If you were to put all Salmon on fighting scale Atlantics only come third, Chinooks / King Salmon would be at the top of the list quickly followed by Chum Salmon.

Clothing

When Pacific Salmon fishing the weather can be extremely diverse, summer weeks can vary from 70 -75 F to mid-50’s F in the same week. Never venture out without your waterproofs as a shower can catch you unawares. Layering is the best option, typically an under a vest or T-shirt followed by a windproof shirt topped off with fleece if it gets too warm just take off a layer.

As you will probably be in chest waders most of the days make sure you are comfortable by wearing a pair of “long johns” or similar followed by breaks and stockings or a pair of jogging bottoms, the water is always chilly. There is very little deep wading, knee-deep will be enough in most cases.

Please be aware that in Alaska felt-soled wading boots are not now permitted for fear of disease transference so the new “sticky soles” or velcro types are required. Some lodges do have loan equipment. A good quality wading jacket is essential, cap and polarised glasses complete the outfit.

Rods

Rods depends on what lodge and what rivers you are fishing as Salmon can be found in big rivers like the Skeena to small creeks. For small rivers/creeks single-handed rod is all that’s required as casting is normally quite short, anything between 20 – 50 feet.

For Sockeye, Chum and Coho Salmon, a 9ft. 8 weight is perfect. King Salmon will require a more powerful rod to handle their incredible strength, so a 9ft. 10 weight is perfect. On larger and more powerful rivers you will need 13 to 15ft double-handed rods. These will not only help with longer casts but also allow you to control your line better and make life easier if you are having to fish with heavy sink tips.

For a break from the salmon fishing and if you have a chance to experience the fabulous dry fly fishing for big Grayling and wild Rainbows a 9ft. 5 weight fits the bill. As previously mentioned, some lodges can supply all or some of the equipment you will need, some charge, some don’t so additional costs of equipment is not necessarily an issue.

Reels

Pacific Salmon fight incredibly hard and make long powerful runs so a reel with a reliable drag is essential, I have seen many inadequate reels with burnt out clutches after a couple of days fishing. Reels need to carry 150 -200 yards of 30lb. backing.

Lines

For single-handed rods, sink tip lines are the most versatile as they allow the fly to be kept in the slot of water being fished by mending the floating section the tip will not drag out from the desired zone. If a full sinking line is employed it cannot be amended once under the surface and is then at the mercy of the current and virtually impossible to control.

We favour the Teeny Mini-Tip, a short 5ft. heavy tip that gives great control, if fishing deeper runs for Kings a longer heavier tip is advantageous such as a Teeny 300 (300 gram. Head). Jim Teeny, Americas Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Guru designed these Teeny lines.

Jim’s lines and flies (more of that later) are some of the biggest assets anyone could use in Alaska and Canada. With the sink tip variants leaders of 2 – 3 ft. are generally accepted as the norm. In some situations, a full floating line and longer leader is preferable especially for Sockeye and some Coho fishing. You can also fish for Silvers / Cohos with surface poppers which is amazing fishing providing very visual action, therefore always take an 8# full floating line.

For swinging flies with double-handed rods, shooting headlines are preferred as like above the running line and a floating section of the line gives you the chance to control the mend and both the depth and speed of the swing. Interchangeable tips allow you to also ensure that your flies are swinging through the zone. This is especially important if you are targeting Kings, for these fish do not like light and will always be very close to the bottom, therefore that’s were your flies need to be.

Dependant on the river being fished you could be using anything from intermediate tips through to arm aching T20. Leader breaking strains vary but 12 -15 lb. or Sockeye, Chum and Coho and 15 – 20 lb. for Kings is recommended.

Flies

There are many fly patterns that will catch Pacific Salmon, colours that are most successful are pink, purple and black, other colour variations do of course work but the big colour is pink.

The Teeny nymph (pictured) for us is the most successful fly anyone could use in Alaska and indeed British Columbia for Steelhead. Most anglers will not have seen them, as they are not sold commercially, they are made from dyed Pheasant tail and will catch more Pacific Salmon than any other pattern, tied in tandem New Zealand style they are deadly. Sometimes a large flashy streamer is good for Kings but a Teeny nymph on the trail is always advisable, often the fish will be attracted to the streamer but will take the nymph.

The nymphs are tied on no2 and no.4 strong hooks, Tiemco T811 bonefish hooks have the dimensions required. There are a number of sites on the Internet showing how they are tied. They look innocuous but believe us they really work. Note it is important to make sure of the rules where you are fishing for some destinations do not allow tandem hooks if that is the case the large flashy streamers can be tied on bareback hooks which basically is just the straight shank of a hook.

teeny flies are a killer for fly fishing for salmon
Two Teeny flies tied on a Tandem set up.
fly fishing for Salmon around the world
A pink Teeny tied straight of the bend of a streamer fly.
Salmon fly fishing flies
It is amazing how many fish get picked up by the Tandem fly
A teeny fly tied on the back of a big Pacific salmon fly
This is a killer method / set up for Kings and Chum
A big Pacific Salmon Fly
A close up showing how the tandem fly is tied on the bend of the hook.

After fishing in Alaska & Canada for nearly twenty years we have built up lots of experience and each year we also host escorted group trips to both Alaska and Canada. If you decide to visit or join us on one of our trips we can always customize them, as there is so much else to see and do. Fly to Brookes Falls and see the bears, catch the Alaskan railway to Seward and take a whale-watching cruise or try some Halibut fishing, view glaciers, pan for gold, the options are endless.

This is what it is all about, measuring a nice size fresh Chinook / King Salmon from Alaska
This is what it is all about, measuring a nice size fresh Chinook / King Salmon from Alaska

Our hosted trips are great for groups or single travellers as our host will be in contact with you all the way before you travel to ensure that you have everything you need for the trip. You travel out together, plus they are then on hand each day to ensure that you gain the most from your holiday.

Tracey Buckenham with a large Pink Salmon, notice the pink salmon fly again in the mouth of the fish
Tracey Buckenham with a large Pink Salmon, notice the pink salmon fly again in the mouth of the fish 
A striking Chum Salmon from British Columbia again on a pink fly.
A striking Chum Salmon from British Columbia again on a pink fly.

Below are my top 10 favourite destinations for fishing for Pacific Salmon.

Goodnews River Lodge | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

If you are looking for a Fishing Lodge that puts you and the fishing first, then look no further. Goodnews River Lodge is the ONLY full-service lodge on the entire river system. Experience the solitude and peaceful beauty of Alaska; it’s just you and the fish. No crowds, no flying to the “best” river. It’s all here on the Goodnews River.

Kalum River Lodge | Salmon & Steelhead Adventures | Canada

If you are looking for an incredible fly fishing holiday for Steelhead, Salmon or Trout with the comfort of having your own single room with private en suite bathroom our lodge on the banks of the Skeena River is the perfect destination. Our guided Steelhead and Salmon trips offer spectacular fishing for all levels of anglers.

Bc West Lodge | Steelhead Fly Fishing River Dean | Canada

Probably one of the most famous locations in British Columbia, fly fishing for both Kings and legendary Steelhead is BC West. This lodge is located less than a mile from the mouth of the world-famous Dean River, where stories of hard takes, and the relentless runs of the “super” Steelhead are hard to comprehend.

Ata Lodge | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

Alaska Trophy Adventures Lodge is the perfect wilderness fishing retreat. Boasting a world-famous run of all five species of Pacific Salmon, plus a host of resident fish, such as Leopard Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char and Grayling. No set itineraries fish with your guides each day for the species of your choice.

No See Um Lodge | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

No-See-Um Lodge is ranked among the finest Alaskan fly-out fly-fishing operations for over 30 years. The Holman family has a well-earned reputation for pampering its guests. John and his team have many years of experience in fishing and guiding in Alaska. They know the best fishing spots and how to get you there safely

Bristol Bay Lodge | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

Bristol Bay Lodge is a fishing paradise for Salmon fishing, each year 40-50 million Sockeye Salmon enter the waters. If you want to experience this spectacular sport, we have the perfect location for you. Bristol Bay Lodge is strategically placed in the unspoiled and untouched surroundings of Alaska’s pristine Wood-Tikchik State Park.

Remote Fly Fishing For King Salmon | Caterina River | Argentina

In this lonely place of the Andes, the King Salmon that live in the Caterina River have developed a healthy population that continues to grow every year due to low fishing pressure and not having many predators. We have developed this fishing as an extension to our Sea Trout fishing packages, it can also be added to our Golden Dorado packages.

Alaska West Camp | Salmon Fly Fishing

Located on the Kanektok River, only 5.5 miles from its mouth is by all standards a remarkably diverse fishery. Perfectly suited to both single-hand and spey anglers, offering one of Alaska’s best opportunities to catch Salmon where high catch-rates and easy wading is the norm.

Mission Lodge | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

At Mission Lodge, you are never fixed to a set itinerary. Each night the head guide will sit down with you to discuss what you wish to fish for and how they will then explain all the different options. With over 40 boats stashed within fly distance from the lodge, one thing for certain is you will not be short of places to fish.

Rapids Camp | Salmon Fly Fishing | Alaska

Rapids Camp sits right on the bank of the famous Naknek River and is just a 15-minute drive from the King Salmon airport. This is the most diverse and flexible lodge in Alaska, where you the customer, decide what to fish for in your itinerary each day. All five species of Salmon plus huge Rainbows make this lodge very popular.

Contact us

If you have ever wanted to fish for Pacific Salmon then contact our team to discuss our hosted trips.

Tight Lines,

Peter

Blog Comments

  • Ivan

    I fished for many years only for Atlantic’s, I did not know what I was missing. I agree with you Chinook / King Salmon win every time as far as power is concerned. Far better sport and when chrome a stunning fish.

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Ivan, hello my friend how are things with you? I know you already share our passion for these fish, I have seen the look on your face when you are connected to a big Chinook its always a picture.

      • Ivan

        Ha ha yes i remember that also are we still on for next year?

        • Peter Collingsworth

          Yes we already have 3 full groups booked buddy

          • Ivan

            I better starting getting more flies tied then

  • Stephenson

    I think Chum salmon are the hardest fighting salmon, the only salmon that has bust my rods. Very under rated fish.

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Looks like Chum are getting quite a few votes

      What I like about Kings and Chum is on many rivers you can swing flies and fish with spey rods. Nothing better than casting a nice long line and swing those big flies through the water. Just waiting for the ultimate bang before the freight train tears off.

  • Kevin

    I vote chum

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Kevin Chum rod busting salmon then 🙂

  • Doc

    Chinook followed by Chum Salmon, before Atlantic Salmon. Have fished for them all and Chinooks are the real Kings of the Salmon world.

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Doc I agree with you all the way. You could say I also have King fever.

      I think Atlantic Salmon are the most majestic of all the Salmon and still have something very special about them, but for sporting qualities Kings and Chum do take some beating. Peter

      • Doc

        Peter can you send me one of your fly fishing brochures please

        • Peter Collingsworth

          No worries its in tonights post, what have you got in mind?

          • Doc

            Alaska again I think

  • Stephenson

    Peter can you send me details on the King Salmon in Argentina, got to get me some of that action soon.

    • Peter Collingsworth

      I will post all the details tomorrow, but if you are serious give me a call as 2016 is already sold out and we are now taking bookings for 2017

      • Stephenson

        Can you save me a place on our hosted weeks and I will get back to you before the end of the week.

        • Peter Collingsworth

          Done 🙂

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