gellfex

Advice for beginner flyfisher spending the summer in Alaska?

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Here's the story: My son, the 20 year old Mountain Man and hardcore climber, has been hired for the summer as a glacier guide in Glacier View AK on the Matanuska River.  He loves fishing but has never really devoted time to it not with me, being obsesses with climbing. He's messed around with a light flyrod we had given to us years ago. On visits to FL, when pond largemouth got too easy on rubber worms we'd fool around catching them on the flyrod, not really knowing what we're doing. 

 

So anyway, this seems like an unmissable opportunity for him to learn to really flyfish in some of his time off, no doubt there will be many fishermen to help him among the other staffers of the guiding company.  What gear should I urge him to bring? He's going to be traveling with a lot of climbing gear already, and may balk at my suggestion of buying and bringing waders, but I assume they're a requirement in glacier melt. I also assume the flyrod we have is not adequate for a salmon fishery, but I don't know it's weight. Given his lifestyle, a backpacker rod might be best, but that may not be up to salmon either.

 

So, any ideas would be welcome, this is not my area of expertise. Convincing a young man to seize an opportunity is not easy, as I'm sure all of you remember!  I regret not fishing in my 20's. 

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To be honest, he's probably better off purchasing gear once he lands in AK. The gear in AK will be tailored to the type of fishing they do.....and with a little luck, a few buddies will kick in some extra stuff like waders....

 

Nice adventure though. 

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Don't let him go; he be ruined forever.  In Alaska, a 4 piece 7 or 8 wt rod will cover most situations ( except kings).  You can get a decent combo for $200.00 that includes rod, reel, backing, line.

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The fishing is decent there.  Its not easy and will actually require him to learn a lot to be successful.  If you want to start a dialog on this send me a DM as I don't want to share any spot specific advice on that area on a public forum.

 

 

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Cman: I think the problem with picking up gear there is he's going to have little time and transport to do it. They're going to pick him up at the airport and take him 2 hrs into the back country.

Graveyard: that's a generous offer, but same thing, he won't have a vehicle and unless someone takes him will fish where he can walk to from their base.

Titleguy: Any way to bring that down? Used? I saw on craigslist that waders can be had for around $50, so that seems doable. If I spend a lot, he'll get pissed that I'm committing him to it!

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1 hour ago, BrianBM said:

Best thing is casting practice, here and now. Everything else can wait.

That might be a hard sell, he's in college in VT and spends all his free time in the mountains. Mybe if he gest excited about the prospect he'll try practicing on the quad, perhaps getting a friend to coach him. I just talked to him about the fishing stuff and he's going to inquire with his employers and see what the situation is there. He wasn't so sure of time off, but I pointed out there's like 20 hrs of daylight!  He also looked at his flyrod (has never used it there, even though some friends were flyfishing last fall before class) and he said it's a 5/6 weight.

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Gell, fishing rivers there you’d fish the tidal side of them. You’re looking for the incoming tide, this brings fresh fish in. Get as close to the tidal end of them and just wait. If the run is happening fish will push right in with the tide. The lakes are fished reguardless of time of day. 

 

Casting wise, most of it will be rollcasting on the rivers. You’re not doing 80’ casts. These are not the Russian, Kenai size but the smaller walkable ones. The walkable ones, you’ll just get in them and fish it. You’ll see the fish easy enough. The larger rivers you’d fish the deeper cuts along the edges. 

 

 

Flyrod sizes. 5/6 for the lakes. And, 8 is fine for the rivers. Nothing fancy in way of lines, floating is a good all around line. Lead twiston or split shot to add to the leader to get the fly down a bit. 

 

Flies, egg patterns. Egg sucking leach in purple or black body colors.  For the lakes, wooly buggers work just fine. I found olive with brass bead was the best for me. 

 

Best advise I can add is don’t overthink it all. Keep it simple and learn as you go. He’ll pick it up or hate it just as quick. Ask for advice and observations are the best you can do. Just watch someone else that’s on the water and fishing. You can pick it out real quick if they know what they are doing not. 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I have been to Alaska exactly once for a week. My observations fishing several rivers of varying widths:

 

6wt for rainbows (they run big and strong)

8wt for salmon (not kings) 

5wt if fishing smaller streams for smaller rainbows, grayling and char. 

Reels with low/smooth drag startup inertia but you don’t need a mile of backing

 

Breathable stocking foot waders (OK to consider brands that are not Simms, Patagonia or Orvis) 

 

If looking for cheaper rods and reels, the Chinese brands on Amazon and eBay are hard to beat. I have bought Maxcatch rods for well under $100 and they are worth the price as they can cast enough and fight well enough. Don’t expect what you would get from a $600 rod but it could work. Cabelas would be another rod choice. 

 

Also have a Piscifun reel that would work if the budget is tight, but I would look at the Redington Behemoth if you can afford it. I blew two STH reels in the early 1990s on one large rainbow and one feisty silver salmon. 

 

Good luck. 

 

 

 

Edited by tomkaz

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Depending on where he is in VT, have him go to the Orvis rod shop in Manchester or The Middlebury Mountaineer in Middlebury for gear and casting help.  

 

I agree with TitleGuy that a 7wt will cover most situations.  I also agree with Tomkaz about the various wts for Alaska.  A glacier will have small streams nearby, wide glacial outflow and possibly a big river or bay.  If I had to pick one, it would be a 7wt.  The fish in Alaska are much bigger than in the Northeast, so a 5wt is too little rod. 

 

Alaska is wet with lots of streams.  It's hard to hike, even on the flatland, and not have to ford a knee-high stream.   Full on waders are for guides and tourists.  Locals wear knee-high Wellies, Muck and Xtratuff boots. 

 

I'm sure he is going to work with and meet a lot of people his age, some of whom will be able to set him up with gear.  He's going to have a blast. 

Edited by Captain Tuttle

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Salty, I think where he's going is well above the tidewater line. I guess one plan is for him to just take the 5/6 he has, and play it by ear. But a backpacker 5/6 would definitely be better for him to travel.

Tomkaz: why stocking foot, doesn't that mean he would need additional shoes of some kind? Seems like booted would be simpler.

Captain: The only question is will he take his eyes off climbing enough to fish!! I'm hoping that the likelihood of their base camp being right on a stream makes the difference.  He's in Burlington at UVM, I assume there's a store there somewhere.

Edited by gellfex

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2 mins ago, gellfex said:

Salty, I think where he's going is well above the tidewater line. I guess one plan is for him to just take the 5/6 he has, and play it by ear. But a backpacker 5/6 would definitely be better for him to travel.

Tomkaz: why stocking foot, doesn't that mean he would need additional shoes of some kind? Seems like booted would be simpler.

Boot foot is "simpler" but not ideal if he’s going to be covering any ground getting from Point A to Point B. Stocking foot with a good wading boot allows for far more comfortable hiking to water. 

 

As for backpacker rod, I am assuming you mean a 5 or even 6 piece 9’ rod. I have never owned one but believe that the more ferrules one adds, the less sturdy is the rod, especially against bigger fish. The added ferrules will likely add to the price.

 

Personally, I have seen that hiking with a 4-piece 9’ is very common by lashing it in its tube to a backpack. I once hiked over 5 miles into Yellowstone with a 2-piece 9’ in its tube using the tube as a walking stick. 

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11 mins ago, tomkaz said:

Boot foot is "simpler" but not ideal if he’s going to be covering any ground getting from Point A to Point B. Stocking foot with a good wading boot allows for far more comfortable hiking to water. 

 

As for backpacker rod, I am assuming you mean a 5 or even 6 piece 9’ rod. I have never owned one but believe that the more ferrules one adds, the less sturdy is the rod, especially against bigger fish. The added ferrules will likely add to the price.

 

Personally, I have seen that hiking with a 4-piece 9’ is very common by lashing it in its tube to a backpack. I once hiked over 5 miles into Yellowstone with a 2-piece 9’ in its tube using the tube as a walking stick. 

I guess a lot "depends" on unknowns at this point. I just looked on Googlemaps and saw the river is literally <1000 ft from the guide basecamp. I think his current 5/6 rod is an 8' 3 piece.  Thing is, for his future adventures, his primary reason for being in the wilderness isn't to fish, but if he has a nice backpacker rod that's easy to bring, it's more likely that he will. His ambition is to have a career in mountain and rock guiding, lord help us. At least he's going to finish his environmental science degree.

 

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