Alaska Fly Fishing Gear List

Essential Fishing Gear for Alaska

Here at OUTDOORS INTERNATIONAL, we want to be sure that your prepared for your fishing trip. A major part of that preparation is what to take, so we put together a Alaska fishing gear list for you. When you’re packing, keep in mind that the weather in Alaska is…. moody. Inclement is a good word for it.

Weather can range wildly from 75 degrees  and balmy, to cold, and windy with sheets of rain. It starts raining. Maybe even snowing, who knows… be prepared for everything when in comes to packing for an Alaska fishing trip. A good “layering system” is the best strategy, bar none, for staying comfortable.

SUGGESTED GEAR LIST

Essential Fishing Gear for Alaska

Our packing lists will help you be prepared for your Alaska fishing trip. The weather in Alaska is moody at best. Here’s a list of essential items you need to take with you.

  • Layered clothing for any type of weather Mother Nature can throw at you.
  • Fishing rods (usually 8 weights, sometimes 6’s)
  • Breathable waders
  • A good pair of lug-sole boots with studs (felt is illegal).
  • A waterproof backpack with thick straps that will accommodate rod tubes.
  • Chest pack and/or a good fanny pack.
  • BUG SPRAY
  • Buff, sunglasses and a good cap.

Clothing, Accessories and Personal Items

  • Good forceps with scissors, a good nipper on a zinger, leader material from 4X up through 0X, indicators, and non-toxic split shot (it is doubtful you’ll be fishing alone and without a guide who will have all of the terminal tackle rigged and ready, but it doesn’t hurt to have some backup).
  • If you want to carry a lightweight net, then carry one. Chances are the guide will land the fish.
  • A wading staff is excellent if you’re going to be out of the boat.
  • Polarized sunglasses – As in every other style of fishing, sunglasses are critical. Take three pair; a backup for your backup. Wear croakies to keep them from falling off and floating down river. Make sure your main pair are superior polarized lenses to cut the glare and allow you to see the bottom as well as the fish. Your backups can be lesser and there are some great less expensive fishing glasses out there.
  • High-quality breathable raincoat in good condition
  • High-quality breathable waders in good condition, with repair kit
  • Stout, felt soled wading boots with good ankle support.
  • Studded boots are optional but not needed.
  • Headgear, i.e. hat with a brim, and a beanie for cooler weather.
  • Long sleeved shirt
  • Lightweight and fleece long underwear
  • Fleece sweater or jacket
  • Packs – Fly-fishing packs are the best way to carry what you need for a day in the Alaskan wilderness. Waterproof packs are even better. Essentially you want a larger pack to carry extra layers and then a fishing pack such as a sling pack or a hip pack to carry flies, leaders, and other accessories. This can actually be transported to the river inside the larger pack and you are not going to need every accessory and every box of flies you own. Your guide will tell you what you need and generally you will be fishing the same species during the course of the day. Take what you need in the smaller pack, and pack what you think you need in the larger pack, which can stay on the shore, in the boat, or on the plane.
  • Casual clothing for wearing around the lodge.
  • Swimsuit for the hot tub (if there is one at the lodge), or the river if you like!
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof boat bag
  • Water bottle
  • Camera (bring extra film or cards, batteries, chargers)
  • Video cameras (bring extra discs, tapes, batteries, chargers, there are plugs in the rooms for chargers)
  • Binoculars for eco-trips and sightseeing
  • Basic toiletries
  • Passport

You’ll want to dress in layers while you’re out on the water.

  • We recommend starting off with a polypropylene or Merino wool base layer next to your skin to wick moisture away from your body.
  • Your second layer or alternative layer could be a medium to heavy-weight fleece, Merino wool or polypropylene shirt, sweater or pullover.
  • Your third layer, if even needed, can be a fleece or wool jacket.
  • Your final layer is the jacket that you choose to protect you from both wind, and rain.
  • Anglers should also bring a few pair of heavy wool socks. We recommend that you try on your socks with your waders in your wading boots before coming to the lodge to insure that you have plenty of room to move your toes. Being unable to move your toes and the cramping of your feet in your boots are the biggest reasons for numb toes and cold feet.

Fishing Rods, Reels and Flies

At the height of the season, most of the action will be for silver salmon mixed with good numbers of 2 ½ to 5-lb. rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, with the odd grayling thrown in for variety.

For salmon, 8-weight rods are easier on the fish and the angler. For trout and grayling, 4- to 6-weight rods< are good, but essentially these fish are feeding on eggs and flesh and the flies are heavy, often fished with sinkers to get the egg patterns down, so a sturdier trout rod such as a 6-weight is perfect for the job.  You can in certain times of the year fish dry flies particularly for grayling, so having a lighter rod along for that can be fun.

Large arbor reels are a big help here for their retrieval rate which helps land salmon, rainbows, and Dolly Varden faster and is better for the fish. A light trout reel for the dry fly rod works well as grayling are not going to run far. You should have a reel with a spool for each of the larger rods with a floating line and a sink-tip line. The dry fly reel is obviously rigged with a floating trout line.

The Best Alaska Flies

Inevitably your guide is going to rig up what is working, but going on a fishing trip without your own flies is heresy.

It’s like showing up to the prom with no corsage. Flashy streamer patterns such as the egg sucking leech, a purple and pink marabou concoction locally called a popsicle, fuchsia bunny flies, woolly buggers, flesh flies, salmon egg patterns, and just plain glo bug yarn are all effective. Other patterns commonly used are muddlers in various shades of black and brown, woolly worms, Mickey Finns, but probably 90%-plus of the silver salmon are caught on egg sucking leeches and popsicles.

Fly Fishing Gear for King Salmon

If you time the run right, get ready for the best fishing you’ve ever had! Factors such as water levels, air temperature, and tides play a crucial factor to determine the peak of the run for any given year.If you prefer swinging streamers with a Spey rod, the King Salmon may become your new favorite species.

  • Single hand rods – 9′ 10-12 wt.
  • Reels – Large, high capacity fly reels capable of holding at least 200 yards of 30 pound backing with very sturdy drags.
  • Lines – changeable tip sinking lines with tip sink rates from 150gr-500gr. Weight forward floating lines for anglers interested in indicator fishing.
  • Two Hand Rods/Spey – 12’6″-14′ 8-9 wt.
  • Reels – Large, high capacity fly reels capable of holding at least 200yd of 30lb backing with very sturdy drags. Reels should be larger than what is recommended for the rod’s line weight to accommodate large diameter spey heads.
  • Lines – Skagit style spey heads matched to your rod. Running lines should be at least 30lb. and 100′-150′ in length. Rio Slick Shooter or S/A Sharkskin are recommended for running lines.
  • Leaders – 4-8 ft. of 15-25lb.
  • Flies – Unweighted anadromous flies with a large profile. Weight is not needed when fishing with sinking lines and affects casting. Tube flies are preferred but not necessary. Flies tied from Marabou or spun Craft Fur are most common. Flies tied with rabbit are very effective but are more difficult to cast with a double hand rod. Colors that work best are Chartreuse, Flo. Red, Flo. Orange, Hot Pink, Cerise, Black, Kingfisher Blue and Purple – in solid colors or in combination. Hooks should be a minimum of sz. 1/0. For both tube flies and articulated patterns we recommend the following hooks: Gamakatsu Octopus, Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap or Owner SSW.

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon fishing in AlaskaWe recommend having a spare rod along as more rods are broken on chums than any other salmon species in Alaska due to their large size.

  • Rods – 9′ 8-9wt.
  • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 100 yards of 20lb. backing.
  • Lines – Weight Forward Floating. Rio Cold Water Clouser or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
  • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 20lb. tippet.
  • Flies – Hot Pink, Cerise, Flo Orange, Flo Red or Chartreuse flies tied with Rabbit Strips, Craft Fur or Marabou – in solid colors or in combination. Flies should have heavy dumbbell eyes and be tied on a sz.1/0-sz.2 heavy salmon hook.

Silver Salmon

The Coho Salmon runs have increased in numbers and consistency each year and have become a major attraction for both fly and spin fishermen on the Alagnak River.Swinging switch rods and spey rods is an effective technique for Coho’s.

  • Rods – 9′ 8-9wt.
  • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 100 yards of 20lb. backing.
  • Lines – Weight Forward Floating. Rio Cold Water Clouser or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
  • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 20lb. tippet.
  • Flies – Hot Pink, Cerise, Flo Orange, Flo Red, Chartreuse, Purple or Black, solid or in combination flies tied with Rabbit Strips, Craft Fur or Marabou in solid colors or in combination. Flies tied with heavy dumbbell eyes and tied on a sz.1/0-sz.2 heavy salmon hook work great. Hot pink poppers are great for taking Silvers on the surface. Foam bodies with Marabou and Rabbit tails, tied on heavy salmon hooks are most common.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon FIshing in AlaskaEffectively fishing for sockeye means putting the fly right on their nose.

    • Rods – 9′ 8-9wt.
    • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 100 yards of 20lb. backing.
    • Lines – Weight Forward Floating. Rio Cold Water Clouser or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
    • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 20lb. tippet.
    • Flies – You’ll need unweighted, sparsely tied creations tied on sz.1 heavy, short shank hooks. Depending upon the method of presentation, fly line choices include sinking tip fly lines or a weight forward floating line with a long leader and plenty of split shot.

Pink Salmon

As with the other salmon they are pretty sleek when entering the river, but the males develop a pronounced hump on their backs and they all become darker in color as their bodies prepare to spawn in the mid sections of the Alagnak River.Scrappy fighters, the pink salmon can be successfully pursued with rods in the 6 to 8 weight class.

  • Rods – 9′ 6-8wt.
  • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 100 yards of 20lb. backing.
  • Lines – Weight Forward Floating. Rio Cold Water Clouser or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
  • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 15-20lb. tippet.
  • Flies – Hot Pink, Cerise, Flo Orange, Flo Red or Chartreuse flies tied with Rabbit Strips, Craft Fur or Marabou – in solid colors or in combination. Flies tied with heavy dumbbell eyes and be tied on a sz.1-sz.4 heavy salmon hook work great. Hot pink poppers are great for pinks on the surface. Foam bodies with Marabou or Rabbit tails, tied on heavy salmon hooks are most common.

Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden

woman fly angler with a beautiful Dolly VardenDolly Varden are voracious eaters, but they can be picky about flies.

  • Rods – Depending on the size of the fish you expect to encounter, fly rods can vary from ultralight to heavy.  For still waters, 3, 4, and 5 weight rods are good choices, and for river and stream fishing, 5, 6, and 7 weight are the tool of choice.
  • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 60 yards of 20lb. backing.
  • Lines – Weight Forward Floating. Rio Coldwater Clouser or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
  • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 10-15lb. tippet. 1525lb. for Mouse fishing.
  • Flies – Sculpin patterns, smolt patterns, flesh flies, beads, glo-bugs, bead head, rubber legged nymph patterns. Dry flies like royal wulffs, caddis, stimulators, green drakes, and adams work well in larger sizes like size 10 through 14. For those wanting to try some specialized angling, fishing with deer hair mouse patterns (tied with stinger style hooks only – no fixed hooks) and a floating fly line in the low light of evening can be a very exciting way to take rainbows on topwater.

Grayling

Alaska grayling are finicky eaters, but they provide great sport for the angler equipped with a 3, 4, or 5 weight rod and reel.Alaska grayling are finicky eaters, but they provide great sport for the angler equipped with a 3, 4, or 5 weight rod and reel.

  • Rods – 9′ 5-6 wt.
  • Reels – Large arbor reel with a good drag that balances the rod and holds at least 60 yards of 20lb. backing.
  • Lines – By far the most common fly line choice for grayling is a weight forward floating line. Rio Grand or S/A Tapered GPX are recommended.
  • Leaders – 8-9ft. Tapered leaders with a heavy butt section ending in 8-12lb. tippet.
  • Flies – Grayling can be caught readily on dry flies. The Adams is probably the best pattern. Black gnats, mosquito, royal coachman, and other common patterns like, bead head nymphs, elk hair caddis, bushy attractor patterns, mini mice also work well.