by Ian Meader
Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge

Guide Confessions: 6 Bucket List Dry Fly Fishing Rivers

When most anglers think of Alaska, they think of big Trout, Salmon, bald eagles, bears and beads. Fortunately for us “purists,” there are plenty of opportunities to catch some of the world’s greatest fish species on dry flies. To say one river is better than another is pure bias. It’s Alaska: every river we fish has lots of bugs, and big fish that will eat dry flies before the salmon drop the first eggs.

So if you appreciate the sight of a Trout rising methodically to winged adults about to take flight, don’t miss your chance to fish these amazing rivers:

Brooks River.
Famous for its bears and waterfalls, this river is truly a gem. Lime green stoneflies, beatis nymphs and caddis flies are common here, providing dry fly opportunities to rival any great western river. Slick water proves a challenge, combined with the Trout that call this place home year-round. The shortness of this river and its prolific bug life provide a sanctuary for fish to eat and be merry far beyond the egg-laying months of July through October. A mouse pattern presented in the middle of the day can move a fish that has refused your #18 mayfly for the last 15 casts. Excited yet? I am.

Ugashik Narrows.
Grayling and Arctic Char are popular fish in Europe but are often overlooked in Alaska. I hope I can change your mind. Do 40 fish days of 24-inch Grayling and 30-inch Char on the dry sound appealing? I thought so. Small black Parachute Adams and Humpies also rule this water. A good cast is important, a better drift necessary, and fish fighting skills, well that’s in the hands of the angler. The more you cast, the better you cast, the more fish will rise to your offering – Alaska style: hard and heavy.

Kulik River.
This river provides Trout fishing unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The Salmon generally show in late July, and it’s pure craziness until the second week of September. What happens before that? Dry fly-fishing, of course. Stones, green and brown drakes and beatis nymphs round out this diverse fishery. A wide river, selectively feeding fish and longer casts make this a must for anyone who thinks they have what it takes to bang fish on a dry fly in Alaska.

Kvichak River.
(that’s our home river)
This river is known for its trophy Rainbow Trout – exceeding 33 inches – and for fights that’ll make you think you hooked a Tarpon. Over the first 7 miles, braids (channels with varying speeds in current) provide great spawning gravel and resting places. Dry fly fishing here doesn’t provide the large fish other rivers do, but gives a novice angler the chance to cast and catch Rainbows and Grayling at will. Short casts and willing fish will have you feeling like a pro in no time, confident for the next day’s trip to Alaska’s buggiest, most western-like stream, the American River.

The American River.
A jet boat ride starts the day. Narrow river braids, limited traffic, hiking, wildlife, bugs, Salmon, Trout, Char – what more could you want? The cast here, though not long, must be precise. The drift must be near perfection. Oh yeah: let’s hope your guide tied the right bug on, because this river sees all the important hatches, all summer long. The fish are always feeding on them. If you think you have what it takes, fish the American. You may just find yourself in dry fly nirvana.

Egegik River.
On the Egegik, you can catch Coho Salmon on dry flies. Not your standard dries, but wogs, bass bugs and Dahlberg divers. If it’s pink or purple, if it floats and pushes water, get ready, because there’s a good chance you’ll get your first eat on top fishing for Salmon. The cast can be okay, the strip can vary, the waking fish will captivate you, and the strike will mesmerize you. “Set, set, set, set!” your guide will be yelling to you, but it doesn’t matter now, because everything you have dreamt about fishing dries in Alaska just came true, and you didn’t even hook that fish. Luckily you will have many more chances.

Come fish Alaska. Come fish with us at Ron Hayes’s Alaska Rainbow Lodge. We can’t promise you fish landed, but we can promise plenty of chances, even on a dry fly.