Any fly fishing recommendations for chasing King Salmon in Alaska?

lawrence_court

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Hello, AH,

I am looking for a place in Alaska to fly fish for King Salmon specifically. Has anyone got any good recs for this, please?

I'd like to prioritize a place with fewer fishers and mostly focused on catering for fly fishing. Not too worried about frills.

Thank you!
 
Go to Alaska Bear Trail Lodge in Naknek/King Salmon. Nanci Morris is literally world-class and if anyone can help you get a king on a fly, she would be the one to do it. Plus you'll fish on the Naknek so you can also fish for monster trout. I've got 2 trout >30" on the Naknek.
 
Besides Nanci Morris, you might also check with Jordan at the Togiak River Lodge. I was there last July and it was good. We used all methods because the river was flooding a bit, which made fly fishing a bit more difficult. Keep in mind that King Salmon runs are trending downward about everywhere.
 
You’d better bring some heavy gear! I had ten hookups on an 8 wt one night on the Kasilof. Finally landed one after running about 1/2 mile downstream with it! They’re smallish on the Kasilof, 20-25 pounds.

On a serious note, fish the Holitna river and fish Kings, Sheefish and big pike on the same trip. Try Alaska Wilderness Adventures. For my money, the sheefish is the greatest game fish in Alaska and most folks have never heard of it. Contact Alaskan Adventures: info@alaskanadventures.net

Here’s a sheefish if you’re wondering.

Image1712352236.577174.jpg
 
Thanks for the replies, fellas. This is very helpful so far!

Really appreciate your responses.

Lawrence
 
Are you looking to DIY or guided/lodge? I rafted, camped and fished the Talachulitna River DIY and we did pretty well on kings on the fly. If you want more info let me know.
 
I forgot the Sandy River Lodge. The Sandy has a good King run and incredible steelhead.
 
Greetings lawrence_court,

All the above recommendations are good ones.
But bear :Bear: in mind that, just as Scott CWO has already mentioned, here in Alaska, our king salmon numbers are dwindling.
I will add that there are still some kings to be found but, king fishing in Alaska ain’t what it used to be.
Everyone is pointing the finger at each other, regarding who, why and what caused the numbers to crash.
Whatever happened, it sure did clobber our fish.

Anyway, judging from your above question, I figure that you’re already a thoroughly experienced fly rodder.
So forgive me for posting such elementary details.
They are primarily aimed at readers who might be just starting to become interested in fly fishing for salmon, especially kings.

So anyway, bring a stout rod, 11Weight or heavier.
And, although up to a 14W rod seems like overkill it really isn’t, if you tie into several big ones during a short duration of time.
That said, after the first half hour or so, casting repeatedly with a 14W is not much fun.
It’s a bit like waiving a shovel over your head all morning.

For all 5 species of AK salmon, I like to use various speeds of sink tip lines, depending on water conditions.
I carry mostly fast sinking ones, and I always keep handy, various length ones (2’ through 10’) that loop on and off the end of standard floating line.
And specifically for kings, I favor 40# test leaders / tippets in root beer color monofilament, fairly short, 3’ is my favorite king leader / tippet.
Our salmon here do not seem to care whether our leaders are tapered or not.

A small king salmon will weight 15 - 20 pounds and can fight like a crocodile.
A largish king here usually is around 40 to 45 pounds, but can go much heavier in rare instances, in certain rivers that seem to inspire excellent genetics.
A 40+ pounder can fight like godzilla, especially in swift water.
Figure out where their “cruising lane” is and fish in it deep, right down in the bottom of it.
And fish slow, keep your hooks needle sharp and don’t mistake the king’s usual (not always) soft strike for anything else.
They do not feed in fresh water so, their “bite” is often very subtle and dainty.

Depending on what patterns and colors you throw, they’ll take your fly, possibly thinking its a clump of their own species eggs and they’ll try to move them to a safe spot to spit them out there.
I like to use a simple blob of bright orange yarn for this, about half the size of a golf ball.

Or, they’ll sometimes mistake your pattern for a small predatory specie of river fish (trout, grayling, etc.).
One theory is that the king will nip at it, in an effort to run this pesky minnow off.
The simple streamer known as a “flash fly” or “tinsel fly” is a favorite of mine for this.

I have also enjoyed sporadic success with a fly that is a combination of the above two very simple patterns.

Moving right along, sometimes it feels like your fly just slightly bumped on the gravel bottom or whatever, as it rolls along in the current down there.
And of course there will be some bumping of inanimate things along the bottom as well which, feels about the same.
However, when you set the hook into a king salmon, dig your heels into the sand and grin, as you will have a grand and wonderful battle for a while.

Oh ya reels, I recommend one with a stout but smooth drag feature.
The Billy Pate Tarpon model is a very good one but, there are others just as good.

Again, my rant here is not so much for the seasoned fly fisher, such as yourself.
It is more for anyone that perhaps wants to give it go someday.

Tight Lines,
Velo Dog.

PS:
Below is a teaser pic of my eldest son Danny ( AH screen name DoubleLunger ) with a 40-45 pound king on a fly rod.
It was back 20+ years ago when, Little Willow Creek (75 miles north of Anchorage) still had abundant kings running in it each June - July.
The rod was an 11W and the reel was an Alvey (Australian made and stoutly built).
Please forgive the crummy picture.
I obviously don’t know how to properly post photos here, without them dragging other things along for the ride.
Believe me, I am not doing that myself, it’s the computer’s thing.
Also, I hope the pic shows up at all.
Because now said photo just disappeared.
So I tried to post it again (several times).
But, so far no success.
If it later pops up, I will be delighted.
If not or, if several of the same pic finally show up, I apologize for that as well.
 
Last edited:
I was going to say something about curtailed King fishing, but I really don't know that much about the high end experiences out west. But if they're shutting down subsistence, you know there aren't many fish.
As far as blame, I believe Craig Medred that it's the bazillions of pink salmon fry they're releasing from the PWS hatcheries that are out competing all the other species.
 
I floated the Naknek a couple of years ago and hooked into four kings at the end of the run. It was pretty much impossible to do anything with them without a jet boat to run after them. I used a good 9wt rod but it was still hopeless. The river was full of dog salmon and a few late run fresh sockeye. Personally, I think sockeye are pound for pound the best fighting fish in North America. They blow away rainbow trout and those are no slouch. And of course sockeye are absolute tops for eating. It's an interesting river to float. Almost no whitewater during the entire week. It's mostly meandering channels and islands. A fly fishing paradise.

I remember one rare deep pool below an island (most places it's easy to bump the oars on the bottom of this very wide river). To my surprise there were seven big kings twenty to twenty-five pounds resting there. One was an irradescent rose colored hen! Very unusual. I said to the gal who was with me, "By gawd, I'm gonna catch that fish." The bunch of them seemed totally disinterested. I didn't want to get the fly too close for fear of foul hookup. That would be a lost fly, at the very least. To my surprise, on the fourth or fifth cast the rose colored fish suddenly came to life and hit my thunder creek pattern. She immediately went airborne when I set the hook. What a sight! Then the battle began. Four times I pulled her out of the current and into the backwash pool. The last time I was sure I had her. Just reaching down to grab her tail when she gave it everything left in the tank and shot back into the current running full tilt upstream. It was hopeless to follow. Half my backing was gone before I dropped the rod tip to let her break off the fly. Many a fool has hung on till the king hits the end of backing and loses all the line. In Alaska you don't just go down to the store and buy some more.

I tied up fifty of my favorite fly pattern and used them all up during those seven days.

Brooks Lodge (Katmailand) flew us to the drop off and pickup points. We rented raft and bear fence from them. Brought our own camping gear.
 
One river where you might escape the downward population trends in Alaska and enjoy world class fishing for kings is with Unalakleet River Lodge. It’s north of the Yukon River, about 100 miles SE of Nome. I used to be part of the previous ownership group before the Unalakleet Native Corp bought it from us, so I fished there a fair bit. It had world class fishing for kings and silvers. Nice size fish and huge runs.
 
I won't fish with anything heavier than 9wt rod. My elbows and carpal tunnel simply cannot take it anymore. Keep in mind one can literally fish 24 hours a day because it doesn't get dark. Even with just a 9wt rod I was pretty much out of commission by day four due to pain. Didn't stop me ... but it should have. By the end I could hardly hold up a fork at breakfast. Manning the oars was an ordeal! Bring a rain jacket with a hood. The wind blows a lot and you'll need the hood to protect the back of your head ... from hooks! I found Frogg Toggs rainwear was ideal. And don't forget BugShirt!
 
As others have noted, kings are in something of a spiral in many places. My two cents? Target spawning silvers as a possible alternative. There are a lot of rivers that have crap-tons. They are often found in huge numbers, and they are too notch for fighting. Later in the season the bugs are less too, and competition with other anglers can be less. Depending on the location you can also hit large numbers of rainbows and spawning Dollies. (y)
 
As others have noted, kings are in something of a spiral in many places. My two cents? Target spawning silvers as a possible alternative. There are a lot of rivers that have crap-tons. They are often found in huge numbers, and they are too notch for fighting. Later in the season the bugs are less too, and competition with other anglers can be less. Depending on the location you can also hit large numbers of rainbows and spawning Dollies. (y)
I love silvers. Always have and always will. They will smash a lure or fly when they want. But sadly, even they have taken a serious hit in the past decade.

As for kings, To the OP, if you get into one, hang on, and if you can get in a boat to fight it. They'll play the river on you.
 
As others have noted, kings are in something of a spiral in many places. My two cents? Target spawning silvers as a possible alternative. There are a lot of rivers that have crap-tons. They are often found in huge numbers, and they are too notch for fighting. Later in the season the bugs are less too, and competition with other anglers can be less. Depending on the location you can also hit large numbers of rainbows and spawning Dollies. (y)
Yes, August and even September can be great for silvers but too late for Kings usually.
 
Greetings lawrence_court,

All the above recommendations are good ones.
But bear :Bear: in mind that, just as Scott CWO has already mentioned, here in Alaska, our king salmon numbers are dwindling.
I will add that there are still some kings to be found but, king fishing in Alaska ain’t what it used to be.
Everyone is pointing the finger at each other, regarding who, why and what caused the numbers to crash.
Whatever happened, it sure did clobber our fish.

Anyway, judging from your above question, I figure that you’re already a thoroughly experienced fly rodder.
So forgive me for posting such elementary details.
They are primarily aimed at readers who might be just starting to become interested in fly fishing for salmon, especially kings.

So anyway, bring a stout rod, 11Weight or heavier.
And, although up to a 14W rod seems like overkill it really isn’t, if you tie into several big ones during a short duration of time.
That said, after the first half hour or so, casting repeatedly with a 14W is not much fun.
It’s a bit like waiving a shovel over your head all morning.

For all 5 species of AK salmon, I like to use various speeds of sink tip lines, depending on water conditions.
I carry mostly fast sinking ones, and I always keep handy, various length ones (2’ through 10’) that loop on and off the end of standard floating line.
And specifically for kings, I favor 40# test leaders / tippets in root beer color monofilament, fairly short, 3’ is my favorite king leader / tippet.
Our salmon here do not seem to care whether our leaders are tapered or not.

A small king salmon will weight 15 - 20 pounds and can fight like a crocodile.
A largish king here usually is around 40 to 45 pounds, but can go much heavier in rare instances, in certain rivers that seem to inspire excellent genetics.
A 40+ pounder can fight like godzilla, especially in swift water.
Figure out where their “cruising lane” is and fish in it deep, right down in the bottom of it.
And fish slow, keep your hooks needle sharp and don’t mistake the king’s usual (not always) soft strike for anything else.
They do not feed in fresh water so, their “bite” is often very subtle and dainty.

Depending on what patterns and colors you throw, they’ll take your fly, possibly thinking its a clump of their own species eggs and they’ll try to move them to a safe spot to spit them out there.
I like to use a simple blob of bright orange yarn for this, about half the size of a golf ball.

Or, they’ll sometimes mistake your pattern for a small predatory specie of river fish (trout, grayling, etc.).
One theory is that the king will nip at it, in an effort to run this pesky minnow off.
The simple streamer known as a “flash fly” or “tinsel fly” is a favorite of mine for this.

I have also enjoyed sporadic success with a fly that is a combination of the above two very simple patterns.

Moving right along, sometimes it feels like your fly just slightly bumped on the gravel bottom or whatever, as it rolls along in the current down there.
And of course there will be some bumping of inanimate things along the bottom as well which, feels about the same.
However, when you set the hook into a king salmon, dig your heels into the sand and grin, as you will have a grand and wonderful battle for a while.

Oh ya reels, I recommend one with a stout but smooth drag feature.
The Billy Pate Tarpon model is a very good one but, there are others just as good.

Again, my rant here is not so much for the seasoned fly fisher, such as yourself.
It is more for anyone that perhaps wants to give it go someday.

Tight Lines,
Velo Dog.

PS:
Below is a teaser pic of my eldest son Danny ( AH screen name DoubleLunger ) with a 40-45 pound king on a fly rod.
It was back 20+ years ago when, Little Willow Creek (75 miles north of Anchorage) still had abundant kings running in it each June - July.
The rod was an 11W and the reel was an Alvey (Australian made and stoutly built).
Please forgive the crummy picture.
I obviously don’t know how to properly post photos here, without them dragging other things along for the ride.
Believe me, I am not doing that myself, it’s the computer’s thing.
Also, I hope the pic shows up at all.
Because now said photo just disappeared.
So I tried to post it again (several times).
But, so far no success.
If it later pops up, I will be delighted.
If not or, if several of the same pic finally show up, I apologize for that as well.
Thank you for the detailed report (General Miles ;))
On our television they brought a scientist from Alaska who said that due to global warming and the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius warmer sea and thus a correspondingly higher food supply, the salmon stocks are increasing in the upper reaches (I forget where).
Do you know anything about this?
Greetings from Munich
Foxi
 
Yes, August and even September can be great for silvers but too late for Kings usually.

Indeed, my best silver days have been in September, on smaller tributaries.
 
Indeed, my best silver days have been in September, on smaller tributaries.

Silvers, rainbows and ptarmigan in September. It is my favorite time of year in Alaska! We had some fine days in a super cub on floats; rods, shotguns and limitless places to explore!
 

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