Alaska lays claim to a lot of the “biggest” records. It has the longest coastline in the United States. The tallest mountains. The largest land area. And yet, in a stroke of good luck, Alaska has the lowest population density in the country, with barely 1 person for ever square mile of land—which means there are far more trout than people in the 49th state. Those trout might take a bit more work to get to, but you can rest assured that when you do get to them they’ll be measured in feet, not inches, and you’ll be lucky if you’re still able to lift a pint at the end of the day when all the catching is done.
The thing you have to understand about Alaska in the summer and fall is that everything—from the birds to the bears to the people to the fish—is just looking to eat. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the rainbow trout. From the smolt-busters and egg-chasers of mid-summer, to the #notasteelhead leech-crushers of September and October, Alaskan rainbows elevate nutrient intake to another level. You can bring your dry flies and your nymphs, but don’t forget the meat. Just like you and I, these fish are going to get grumpy if the main course doesn’t come soon.
PERFECT SETUP | RAINBOW TROUT
Whether skating mice, swinging leeches, or drifting eggs, Alaska Rainbows are a big departure from their southern dwelling relatives. These fish only get good food opportunities for a few months of the year, and believe us when we say they take advantage of it – they’re true predators. When headed to Alaska to chase big ‘bows, without a question our favorite setup is the R8 CORE 690-4FB paired with a TROUT 4/5/6 Reel and RIO Grand WF6F line. This setup has the backbone necessary to pull on these fish while still being sensitive enough to make accurate casts with a mouse, leech, or junk rig.
Grayling are known the world over for being the perfect dry fly fish. There’s just something about them—the dainty mouth, the delicate dorsal fin, the scales that alternate purple and pearl—that seems to cry out for a carefully tied and drifted floating fly. Alaska’s grayling might have been happy to fly under the radar, happily overshadowed by their trout and char cousins. The only problem is they didn’t get that memo about how they’re supposed to be dainty and delicate. The only thing more surprising than how beautiful they are is how they can manage to fit a size 2 deer hair mouse in that pretty little mouth.
PERFECT SETUP | GRAYLING
Arctic Grayling are a unique addition to the Alaskan hit-list in that they will pretty regularly take any well placed dry fly. Given the opportunity at true trophy grayling in the 20”+ class, we prefer the R8 CORE 590-4, SPECTRUM LT 5/6 Reel, and RIO Gold WF5F line when targeting the “sailfish of the north”.
DOLLIES & CHAR
Most trout look at you side-eye from the net after they’ve been fooled, annoyed and probably a bit ashamed at themselves for being so greedy. Arctic char, on the other hand, dress up for the occasion, adorning themselves in their best oranges, greens and blues for the date. They almost seem to flaunt it, as if to say, “I know you came here for that rainbow at the bar, but just give me a chance. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Rest assured, no rainbow trout date is complete without dancing with a char or two. You may even be surprised by which one you decide to call the next day.
PERFECT SETUP | DOLLIES & CHAR
Dolly Varden and Arctic Char have been known to eat anything from a drifted egg to a big bass popper. Arctic Char in particular also have a reputation for getting handsomely large. We prefer an R8 CORE 790-4 paired with a TROUT 6/7/8 Reel and RIO Grand WF7F line when targeting these beautiful Alaskan natives.