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5 Alaska Fly Fishing Rivers You Must Experience Before You Die

Posted by yellowdog on Dec 5, 2017 2:40:00 PM

Alaska is home to some of the finest fly fishing in the world. The wilderness settings paired with spectacular takes on the water make Alaska one of Yellow Dog's favorite destinations. Put these rivers at the top of your angling bucket list.

1. American Creek

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American Creek is one of most prolific trout and char fisheries in Bristol Bay, Alaska and inevitably part of evening conversations at lodges across the region throughout the summer seasons. The creek meanders into Lake Coville in Katmai National Park and Preserve with its headwaters in the foothills of the Aleutian range. The American is a quintessential Alaskan creek with no lack of wildlife during a standard day on the river. Of course, brown bears are abundant as salmon move throughout the drainage as well birds of prey such as bald eagles.

There isn’t a lot of water flowing in American Creek during summer months which is a double-edged sword – low water levels make it very wadeable during prime summer months but the jet boat run upriver is reserved for the most experienced guides in the region. Float trips are also an option, allowing anglers to experience sections of the river out of range from jet boats or hiking. Anglers agree that the American can be some of the best fishing in Alaska with Rainbows and colorful char abound in the crystal-clear waters, ready to inhale a dry fly, streamer, or egg pattern.  

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2. Yukon River

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This is a somewhat unexpected river, but for people seeking a remote destination surrounded by an awe-inspiring setting, the Yukon Tributary in Northern Alaska is a must visit for any serious fly fisher. The river’s arguably the best northern pike fishing in the world where there’s a good chance any angler on any day could catch a pike of a lifetime.

The shallow water provides for extremely visual and violent takes as pike devour poppers off the surface. And for people not familiar with sheefish – aptly named, the “tarpon of the north” - the coldwater fish will leave you only wanting more. They fight hard and violently and offer everything an angler wants. The tributary is so remote and wilderness-bound that it’s likely not to see another angler during the trip.

Recommended Lodges:


alaska fly fishing insider

3. Kulik River

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Running between Nonvianuk and Kulik Lake, the Kulik River is less than two miles long. However, due to its length, it’s never blown out and one of the most reliable rivers in the state of Alaska. The river’s stability allows anglers to fish the river from early June all the way through October each year; with consistent fishing regardless of water level. The gin clear water and gravel bottom make it the perfect habitat for rainbow trout and easy wading for anglers of all ability levels.

All anglers generally use a jet boat or raft to access different runs on the river and target powerful rainbows with streamers, egg patterns, and even mice when the conditions allow. Bordered by thick willows, the Kulik is inundated with bears as the river fills with sockeye in August, so be sure to keep your head on a swivel! But don’t let the bears deter you – big snowy mountains, crystal clear water, and big fish make the Kulik one of the best fly fishing rivers in Alaska. 

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4. Kvichak River

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When brought to mind, it’s impossible not to associate the Kvichak River with large, chrome rainbow trout. Located in southwest Alaska, The Kvichak River flows 50 miles from Iliamna Lake to Kvichak Bay which is part of the larger and more famous Bristol Bay watershed.

The clear cold water holds rainbow trout as large as 28” to 30” that move in and out of large lakes and are dime bright during certain parts of the season; leave your favorite 5wt at home! In fact, the rainbow trout fishing is so excellent that it’s the only river in Alaska with the “Trophy Rainbow Trout Area” designation. Aside from rainbows, the Kvichak has the world’s largest salmon run as the fish move from the ocean into freshwater to spawn and die. Every fly fisher should experience the wild and incredible fishing that the river offers.

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5. Naknek River

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This pristine river drains from Naknek Lake and flows 35 miles into Bristol Bay. As far as fly fishing Alaska trout goes, the Naknek is a must-experience fishery. The river holds some of the largest rainbow trout in the world that get to be enormous sizes from feeding on salmon eggs and insects that abound in the healthy environment.

The river’s also a major highway for Pacific salmon making their way back upstream to spawn, and starting the end of June and lasting roughly until the end of July, witness one of nature’s magical events as thousands of salmon clog the river while making their way back home. This is a river that will leave you with fond memories and a want to return year after year. 

Recommended Lodges:

Camille Egdorf is the program director for Alaska. After years of guiding in Alaska, Yellow Dog is fortunate to have someone on the team with her extensive knowledge of the region and fish.

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Topics: Freshwater Fly Fishing, Alaska