Alaska is well known for its incredible salmon fishing. The five salmon species that call the Alaskan rivers home are all unique. Nothing compares to the fight of a coho salmon or the massiveness of a chinook salmon. In order to experience these impressive fish, you need to have the right gear, flies, and guides. Below, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Rainbow River Lodge, to create a blueprint for fly fishing for Alaskan Salmon.

Table of Contents: 

Alaska’s Salmon Species

Flies to Use to Catch Alaskan Salmon

Gear Setup for Alaskan Salmon Fishing

Where to Fish For All 5 Salmon Species

Alaska’s Salmon Species

Coho Salmon

If you like an aggressive bite and fight, go coho fishing! These salmon are known to hit topwater flies and are just plain fun. Coho salmon are also known as silvers due to their bright silver color. Fishing for coho is best in August and September, which also happen to be the best months for rainbow trout fishing in Alaska. For an ultimate Alaska fishing adventure, we suggest going in the fall!

coho salmon alaska
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Perry

Chinook Salmon

Alaska’s state fish is the chinook salmon. As with just about anything in the last frontier, this salmon goes well with the motto, “go big, or go home”. Also known as the king salmon, this huge fish averages a weight of 20 to 30 pounds! King fishing is best from mid-June to July.

Sockeye Salmon

People come from all over the world to catch Alaskan sockeye. They are the most economically important fish in Alaska due to their popularity. Sockeye spawn in Alaska during June and July. As the salmon go to their spawning grounds, they turn a bright red color. Many local Alaskans call sockeye salmon “reds” (not to be confused with redds) because of their color.

fly fishing for sockeye salmon

Chum Salmon

Chum are uniquely represented by their bluish-grey tiger stripes and large kype (in spawning males). They are also known as dog salmon because of their large canine-like teeth. Some also say they are known as dog salmon because sled dogs used to be fed this less tasty fish. Although they aren’t the tastiest, chum salmon are the most distributed of the pacific salmon. These tiger-striped fish put up a good fight on the fly and can grow to be 10-13 lbs.

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon are the smallest Alaskan salmon species, but they are still fun to catch. These salmon are also known as humpies due to the large humps that spawning males get towards spawning. Many Alaskans do not eat humpies because of how bony they are. Catching pink salmon on the fly is a blast though, and the best time to do it is in August.

Flies to Use to Catch Alaskan Salmon

Dolly Llama/Dalai Lama

A classic and effective Alaskan fly, the Dolly Llama is great for salmon (and rainbow) fishing! Silvers will smack this streamer without a second thought. You can buy it online at Alaska Fly Fishing Goods or tie it yourself. The Dolly Llama is fairly simple to tie, and Alaskan salmon won’t care if your fly tying skills are minimal or advanced!

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

Guide Intruder

This intruder pattern is irresistible to king salmon. If you’re into spey fishing, you will want this buddy on the end of your line. The Guide Intruder comes in pink, black, and chartreuse. Although created for king salmon, the pink Guide Intruder is also a great option for coho salmon.

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

Pink & White Clouser Minnow

Silvers, pinks, and chum are suckers for the Clouser Minnow. Although it doesn’t look like much, it is very effective. The Pink & White Clouser Minnow is a must-have in your salmon fly box!

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

Mercer’s Sockeye Fly

This fly is sure to catch sockeye salmon, it’s flashy but a classic. Tie Mercer’s Sockeye Fly on the end of your line for some sockeye action. You can purchase it online here.

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

Hammerhead Hair Wog

Looking for topwater action? Pick up a Hammerhead Hair Wog, it is made for coho and chum. Watching a silver smack a topwater fly is one of the best feelings. The Hammerhead Hair Wog is made with spun deer hair and a large head that creates a beautiful wake.

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

Mega Egg Sucking Leech

The Egg Sucking Leech is an Alaskan classic. It has been used for years on salmon, trout, and char. The Mega Egg Sucking Leech makes this classic fly a beast. This fly is tied on a size 2 hook and is made to be destroyed by king salmon.

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Fly Fishing Goods

<h2>Gear Setup for Alaskan Salmon Fishing

No matter what you’re fishing for in Alaska, you need to be prepared for the elements. One day it can be sunny and warm and the next cold and pouring rain. If you have the right clothing and gear, you’ll have a great time nonetheless. Depending on the species of salmon you’re fishing for will determine the rod and setup you need.

Chinook Salmon Setup

These big boys and girls need some heavy-weight gear. It is recommended to use an 11wt or 12wt rod for the legendary king salmon. We recommend the Orvis Helios 3 11wt rod to hold up against Alaska’s state fish.

Going Fishing for Coho, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon

Coho, chum, and sockeye salmon all require similar weight gear. They all put up a good fight and weigh around 10lbs. If you are looking for a high-quality rod, we recommend using a G-Loomis 8wt or 9wt ASQUITH. We also suggest using the airflo Superflow Power Taper line for your Alaskan salmon fishing trip.

Fishing for Pink Salmon

The smallest Alaskan salmon can easily be caught on a bigger salmon rod, but they are the most fun on a 6wt or 7wt. We recommend the G-Loomis NRX and airflo Universal Taper Line.

Rain Gear & Bug Spray

No matter where you go in Alaska you will need a rain jacket and bug spray. Just trust us on that. We recommend wearing the Men’s Simms Guide Wading Jacket or the Women’s Simms Challenger Rain Jacket. Alaska is a truly wild place and with that comes some exciting weather conditions.

Where to Fish for All Five Salmon Species in Alaska?

rainbow river lodge

Alaskan Salmon Fishing with Rainbow River Lodge

Located in the heart of Bristol Bay, Rainbow River Lodge is the place to be for salmon fishing. It is remote, wild, and truly Alaskan. All five Alaskan salmon species can be caught at the Rainbow River Lodge. Trophy rainbow fishing is also amazing at the lodge. To experience both salmon and trout we suggest going in late July or early August. Rainbow River Lodge will give you an incredible Alaskan experience, from flying in on a floatplane to fly fishing amongst the pristine Alaska wilderness. Check out how to book your trip to Rainbow River Lodge HERE!

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