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Alaska is the largest state in the United States, and the majority of the state is surrounded by water, including the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Inland, Alaska is filled with an abundance of rivers that are generally packed with a range of freshwater species that anglers from all over the world travel to pursue.
Most fly anglers have their sights narrowed on the 3,000-plus rivers that are in Alaska. The five species of Pacific salmon are perhaps in their greatest abundance in Alaska, and summer in “The Last Frontier” delivers reliably heavy runs of king (Chinook), silver (coho), sockeye (red), chum (dog), and humpy (pink) salmon, which run every other year.
In addition to the world famous salmon, Alaska has some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the world. The leopard rainbow trout that roam these waters are both beautiful and beastly. As for beauty, these trout have the characteristics you would expect of rainbows but with a boldness of coloration that highlight everything from their spots to their red stripes. As for the beastliness, these brutes get big off a range of food sources, including salmon eggs, and they have even been known to aggressively take mouse patterns – an experience that perhaps reveals the peak of their predatory nature.
Alaska also has steelhead. Southeastern Alaska stretches far south to border the land near Western Canada’s best steelheading waters. Beginning in the Tongass National Forest, anglers have the opportunity to not only pursue Pacific salmon, but also world class steelheading fishing.
The most famed area in Alaska is the Southcentral section that includes everything from the waters near Anchorage to the Bristol Bay region. The Kenai Peninsula that extends south of Anchorage and includes the Kenai and Russian Rivers, among others, and nearby Kodiak Island offer some of the best steelheading opportunities in Alaska in addition to other species. And just west of these waters is the Bristol Bay region. The Bristol Bay region is home to some of the most prolific runs of salmon and also has outstanding trout fishing. In addition, these waters house record Arctic char and Dolly Varden.
In many ways, the fly fishing opportunities are too vast to condense into a summary. From Cook Inlet to Prince William Sound to the Interior and Arctic waters, there are endless opportunities. And beyond trout, steelhead, and salmon, anglers can chase trophy pike, halibut, grayling, and more.
For organizing a trip, plan and book early. Anglers often target specific species based on the weeks their ideal salmon fishing runs are expected to happen. Because these dates fill fast, some of the best times are usually booked as early as January, if not sooner. Time is of the essence when planning your trip to Alaska, because demand is high … and for good reason!