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So you want to travel thousands of miles to go fly fishing in Alaska, home to giant flesh-eating Rainbow Trout, float planes, and remote wilderness. A trip to remote Alaska from the lower 48 is no logistical slouch; a lodge must be chosen, flights booked, and fishing packages decided on, often years in advance. Timing is important; fish behavior changes throughout the season and is drastically different in June than it is in July, August, and September (the summer angling season is usually limited to these four months). It is important to prioritize desired fishing tactics, species, and weather patterns before planning your fishy getaway. It is also important to arrive with a thorough fly selection. Fly patterns can make or break a trip to Alaska, and having the right patterns in your fly box is paramount. Here are a few pertinent fly suggestions for Alaskan Rainbow Trout and when/how to use them.

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This blog post has a strict focus on Southwest Alaska (the Bristol Bay Region), one of the most productive Rainbow Trout fisheries in the world. See a map of the focus region here. The advice given in this blog post is highly dependent on generalizations and is meant to provide an overview of top Alaskan flies and fishing seasons, not specific dates/times. All fisheries in Alaska are incredibly seasonally dependent and conditions and specifics change yearly.

Stimulator 

A Stimulator can be a killer pattern for Alaskan Rainbows during the month of June. Many rivers in the Bristol Bay Region see hatches of Stoneflies, Caddis, and other insects in the early summer season. Alaskan Rainbows act similarly to western Rainbows during this part of the season (think Montana freestone rivers like the Yellowstone); if you see fish rising, chances are pretty good they’ll eat a stimulator. Stimulators are a great point fly for a dry-dropper setup, too (although some rivers in the Bristol Bay Region are single fly only). The Stimulator is a simple pattern but can be very effective when fished for post-spawn Trout before Salmon crowd the rivers.

Dolly Llama

The Dolly Llama is an Alaskan staple. If I had to choose one fly for Alaska, it would be the Dolly. Dolly Llama patterns are tied to imitate leeches. That being said, the fly also imitates a sculpin, a small baitfish, and other swimming Rainbow meals. The Dolly is most effective when fished with a swing technique and a sink tip depending on river depth. Rainbow Trout find this pattern particularly appetizing during the post-spawn weeks (June). Alaskan Rainbows expend a lot of energy and consume very little during the spawn. Therefore, in the weeks that follow, appetites ramp up to ravenous, and every trout is looking for a big meal. Similarly, during the last few weeks of the season (end of September), trout are bulking up for a cold, dark winter. Again, trout become partial to a large meal, and a well-presented Dolly Llama is sure to trigger a strike.

Bead Head Prince Nymph 

The Prince Nymph is arguably an attractor nymph; it doesn’t imitate one specific insect. Alaskan Rainbows eat the Prince Nymph as a Caddis Nymph, Stonefly Nymph, and sometimes even as a small baitfish (or a fry). Fishing the Prince Nymph under an indicator can be quite productive in late June and early July when bugs start popping on Alaskan rivers.

Tungsten Head Flashback Pheasant Tail 

This nymph is fished just like the aforementioned BH Prince Nymph. These nymphs are most productive in shallow riffles where insects are likely found rolling over rocks or gravel, carried by the river’s current. I often find fish holding both in riffles and just downstream where the riffle dumps into a run or a pool. Tungsten helps sink the nymph quickly so you can maximize the time your fly spends on the river bottom.

Pats Rubber Legs

This pattern is hugely popular in the Western U.S., especially on freestone rivers with prolific Stonefly hatches. Rubber Legs patterns are meant to be fished under an indicator or at the end of a tight line and imitate Stonefly nymphs. Lead wire wrapping adds weight to sink these flies quickly into a trout’s feeding zone.

Micro Flesh Fly

Micro Flesh is technically not a ‘fly’. After Sockeye Salmon enter the river, spawn, and begin to die, Rainbows key in on Salmon flesh. Flesh offers the trout a protein-filled meal, and protein provided by the Salmon is part of the reason Alaskan Rainbows are so large. Flesh flies can be swung or dead-drifted, although I prefer a dead drift. After all, I’ve never seen swimming flesh. Flesh flies are most productive during the month of September.

Morrish Mouse

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the famed mouse pattern. We’ve talked about big-eyed Rainbows looking for large, protein-filled meals. Well, the mouse is a large (pun intended) part of that protein-rich diet. I prefer the Morrish Mouse. The foam on the Morrish Mouse helps create a life-like wake in the water when fished properly and draws a nearby trout’s attention to the surface. These patterns are most effective when fished in the early and late season with a slow swing and/or stripping technique. Start by throwing a mouse pattern at the river bank and working out; when mice fall into the river it’s almost always off a bank. Fishing a mouse pattern in Alaska is insanely thrilling and eats are nearly always explosive. Don’t get too jumpy; let the fish eat the mouse pattern before setting the hook.

Fry Pattern 

Fry patterns are an essential fly for Rainbow Trout in Alaska. In the early season, trout key in on schooling baitfish, or fry. Rainbows often work together to push schooling fry to the surface where the trout capitalize on an easy meal. This occurrence is, most times, visual for an angler. Sometimes it looks like the Rainbows are feeding on insects just below the surface; don’t be fooled. A small fry pattern stripped quickly just under the surface can be hugely efficient at fooling these hungry Rainbows. Sometimes getting the fry pattern right is tough; these trout are often more particular when eating fry than they are when eating insects, so bring a few different patterns with you.

You may have noticed that most of these patterns are productive in June-July. What flies should I fish in August and early September, you might ask? Well, if you know anything about Alaska, you know that August and September bring spawning Salmon, and when there are eggs in the river, the Rainbow Trout focus on little else. “Beading”, or fishing a bead to imitate a Salmon egg, is most effective during these months (although many don’t consider a bead a fly). Varying bead colors and sizes imitate the different stages of Salmon eggs throughout the spawn.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Plenty of patterns fool Alaskan Rainbow Trout and every guide has his/her favorites.

Already looking forward to the Alaskan summer fly fishing season? Yeah, me too. I hope to see you up there.

If you're ready to book your trip, visit our Alaska fly fishing lodge offerings here

Questions about Alaska Rainbow Trout fishing? Call the Trident Headquarters at (888)-413-5211 or email us at [email protected] and one of our expert customer service reps will gladly answer any/all questions about fishing, gear, and more!