Alaska Arctic fly fishing has beautiful scenery and great opportunities for trophy pike, lake trout, char, grayling and sheefish. Someone has to know where to find them, how to fish them and also get the camp gear to the area to make it truly accessible. Just flying into any Alaska lake you will find the shore line is likely boggy muskeg, boulder lined or full of brush that grows well higher in the endless sunlight of the summer days than one can back cast. Wading along the lake shore line is almost impossible in most areas to be able to cast from drop offs to muddy bottoms.
The splender of the mountains one flies across, quite solitude with not even the sound of a plane for days under the almost endless daylight makes for fantastic memories one will recall when they are old and can no longer get out of their rocking chair to hit their local crowded fly fishing stream. In these remote areas of the Arctic has moose, caribou that are constantly roaming for food, Dall sheep feeding along the hillsides, lynx, wolves, fox , bears, peregrine falcons, golden eagles and waterfowl to photograph or simply watch.
With the long Arctic daylight hours if fly fishing a lake in a kayak it's best to get out earlier than at most other Alaska fly fishing camps. The big predatory fish are moving in the lower light seeking fish up to 1/3rd their body size to fill their bellies. Sometimes this means waking up and putting coffee in an insulated cup for an hour of fly fishing large reflective streamers then returning for a leisurely hot breakfast. If the sun is bright and few clouds you hit the kayak for a few more hours fishing before you return to relax in the warm sunshine or take a few hours nap as the fishing slows in the sunshine.
Often on a bright day on an Arctic lakes one will find the bigger fish feeding after dinner when normally in other parts of Alaska fly fishing camps have you sit around drinking and telling fish stories. On days that are cloudy or have a slight mountain thermal breeze you return to a “normal” fish camps time table of breakfast, fly fishing, lunch, more fly fishing, dinner than some fish stories.
Arctic fly fishing float trips for fly fishing usually has a more normal routine. You get up to a hot breakfast and spend the day paddling 4-6 hours with another 4-6 hours fishing along feeder streams or good holding waters with a few snack breaks and quick lunch. When you stop for the evening and camp is set you can enjoy some fishing while dinner is cooking.
During some of the float trips in the far north for colorful sea run dollie varden and Arctc char might see you having to walk the inflatable kayak for short distances if the rivers are down from little rain. Many of the better streams with sizable runs can get low in the later part of the summer with little rain. If there is some rain the streams will turn turbid, so highly reflective weighted flies are a must.
Not all of the streams some people float to fly fishers have really good populations of char, as rivers this far north often freeze solid to the bottom in the extreme winter cold and fish can’t spawn and winter over, as they can not return to the saltwater until the ice thaws next summer. These streams that drain into the Arctic Ocean side of the Brooks Range do not have noticable salmon runs due to the extreme cold that freezes the rivers except where springs are.
One has to have knowledge of where the fish spawn or are migrating to spawn. Sheefish on the southern side of the Brooks Range need to be fished for before they get to spwning areas. Right after the river ice goes out on the northern side the char that have spawned the previous fall migrate quickly to the Arctic Ocean for a few more years feeding and it will be a few months before fresh bright sea run Arctic char and dollie varden come to take their place.
On the south side of the Brooks Range there are only a few far western streams that have sea run char, and those are dollie varden. Contrary to many writers most of the Arctic Char are found in lakes. The majority of all of the fish that participate in the spawning migrations will be sea run dollie varden. A few rivers actually have sizable populations of lake trout in them with no sizable lake for them to reside in for the winter and it is thought be some biologists they might be sea run also, as even the mighty Coleville River will turn to a frozen slush to the bottom in the bitter cold of winter of the Arctic..
My first trip to a camp on the North Slope of Alaska in the Arctic was in August of 1998. I have resided for 2 decades year round in Alaska and fly fishied over much of the State for all species, including living on a salmon river for a decade. Residing here year round I have learned of the better places to fly fish from people I have known or worked with who have lived in Alaska from the early 70s or longer.
Living in Alaska leads to meeting people from the Bush who come to town for the winter and if you are an Alaskan they often will tell you about the fishing were they are from and where they have been. You also hear about fishing from contractors who travel to small communities to complete projects, or go there yourself. I have heard stories from an electrician who was working in the Bush and was taking out pike fishing with a local Native Alaskan. He told me that even with his expensive rods he was out fished by the man’s kids who used home made lures they made from shiney pop bottle tops. A retired major from the Alaska Air Guard introduced me to his brother-in-law who feed what was likely a world record 5 foot pike to his dog team.
While air taxi operators will fly you to camps they have set up, you soon learn just as inexperienced moose and caribou hunters do from such trips, others will likely be dropped of by other air taxis close by. If one considers why the air taxi goes through the trouble of setting up such camps, it is because they keep flying people in and out all of the short Arctic summer. If you have ever fished a public campground at a state park lake, you already know the fishing there likely sucks. Any other spot on the lake will likely produce much better fishing than an area where people are constantly bank fishing throught out the summer from such camps.
Many excellent fisheries still exist in Brooks Range of Alaska as few people venture into the remote arctic, even fewer to fish. Most of Alaska’s arctic fishing is for subsistence of those who live there, as food is expensive to fly into the villages. While some drive up the Dalton Highway (known in Alaska simply as the Haul Road) that is the only road into the Arctic, the fishing along it has deteriorated over the decades since it was built for the oil fields on the North Slope.
A few hardy fly fishers read books on where to fish and plan for months to do self guided trips not realizing that the people who wrote the books usually have never fished there themselves, the authors simply put information together from ADF&G or USFWS limited studies. Those studies were usually conducted back in the 70s or early eighties as environmental impact studies for the Alaska Pipeline.
Alaska itself is 1/3rd the size of the lower 48 States and most maps fool people, as they make the vast expanse of Alaska look much smaller than it is. This vast area requires the use of airplanes to get to any good fly fishing and once there people often find out that most Alaska maps they are looking at.
They also soon learn that once they start to plan a self guided float trip the costs with air taxis and renting or shipping equipment, the limited places they can land and also that they also have to find the right spot at the end to stop to be able to get picked up. On the river they spend much more time with the camp chores than on a guided trip. That’s fine if you enjoy a few months of planning for a week of fishing.
Still other fly fishers from outside of Alaska often book with Alaska float trip outfitters that promote the fishing of some float trips and never even check to see if the company is even a licensed Fishing Outfitter. Alaska does make it hard, as the ADF&G can’t tell you, as you have to check with the Department of Commerce who they are licensed under. I’ve done so myself with a few in the past years and after checking find out the operator aren’t even licensed Alaska Fishing Outfitter (and they are still operating with the same river float trips. One has to imagine how good a fishing trip that would turn out be.
Since the season is so short AAARFF also takes people other areas to enjoy all type of Alaska fly fishing. These also are areas with few people visiting them so the fishing stays consistantly good along with beautiful scenery that truly makes many memories for our customers for them to recall for your golden years. Feel free to look over the other Alaska fly fishing trips that AAARFF offers, as we have provide them starting from the glaciers of Prince William Sound - north to the future - of fly fishing!
Top of Page