Story last updated at 6/17/2009 - 11:02 am
Pick up any book on Alaska fly patterns - or better yet, rummage through a few fly boxes of any hard core Alaska fly fisher - and you'll quickly note that fly patterns for Alaska come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, colors and profiles.
Some flies are designed specifically to resemble key food items such as insects, crustaceans, fish eggs or small baitfish, and these patterns are commonly referred to as "naturals." On the other end of the spectrum are fly patterns that do not resemble any specific food items. These patterns, referred to as "attractor patterns," are designed specifically to elicit a predatory or aggressive strike response. Attractor patterns are usually brightly colored or garnished with hints of flash to advertise their presence, whereas naturalistic patterns tend to closely mimic specific prey items while complementing both their natural coloration and biological profile.
With all of the various styles and patterns of flies available today, choosing the most appropriate fly pattern (or patterns) for any given fishing trip can seem highly intimidating at first glance, even for advanced anglers. But it doesn't need to be so. Fly selection can be streamlined tremendously if you first obtain a general knowledge of the local fishery where you'll be will be fishing, and specifically, its run timing.
Understanding Run Timing: Know what you're fishing for
Generally speaking, sport fishing in Alaska can be described as feast or famine. In other words, when fish are present and the summer salmon runs are in full swing, fishing is usually blistering hot. However, when rivers are barren and void of fish, the day might be better spent doing domestic chores gaining spousal points than casting in vain into vacant water.
The key point here is to know the local run timing of the specific waters where you intend to fish. Although there is always some degree of variability with respect to precise run timing among watersheds in Southeast Alaska, the following summer outline can be used as a guideline to determine what fish might be present during the summer months here in Southeast Alaska.
Early Summer: June and July
The months of June and July are the "Gateway to Summer" months in Southeast Alaska. June is often considered a transition month with most fish still actively feeding and residing in the salt. Fortunately, in some select regions of Southeast Alaska this fresh water seasonal lull has been augmented through the introduction of hatchery produced king salmon. Hatchery king salmon offer recreational sport anglers excellent angling opportunities without negatively affecting naturally occurring wild populations.
As June winds down and gives way to July, Southeast Alaska watersheds experience a major influx of salmon, specifically chum, pink and sockeye, as well as nomadic schools of Dolly Varden. With these species of fish now in abundance throughout the region, fishing in Southeast Alaska becomes a mixed smorgasbord. During these months, if you were to choose a single fly color to intercept all of the available fish species listed, it would surely be pink. The exception to this generalization might be for chum and sockeye where you could also add the color chartreuse to your box.
Choosing flies for Alaska is no different than anywhere else. To ensure yourself the best opportunities for success, you must first know your target species. In Alaska, this implies knowledge of specific run timing. With a comprehensive understanding of run timing and up-to-date information on water conditions; choosing the right fly or flies for any fishing outing in Southeast will no longer be an arduous hair-pulling affair.
Good luck and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.