I have to confess, I have never fished Alaska. My wife has, my kids have, all my fly-fishing friends have, I bet even the guy that mows my lawn has, but not me….
Alaska is a pretty wild place and you want to have all your ducks lined up in a row to plan a successful trip. Kyle Shea has been Hatch Prostaff for several years and has guided in Alaska for even longer, and his expertise makes his knowledge of the area invaluable to anyone daring enough to take it on. When I finally make my trip to the Last Frontier I will be calling on Kyle to help me organize it.
– Danny Ashcraft –
CEO / Founder
Fishing in the 49th state requires you to be prepared. The ever-present uncertainties of fishing in remote locations along with the opportunity to target a wide range of species using a bunch of different techniques (oft within the same day) often makes the most prepared angler the most successful angler.
Home to the most prolific populations of native rainbow trout fishery on the planet, Alaska pulls at the heartstrings of the trophy trout chaser. With the season just around the corner, we’re gearing up to battle those mammal-murdering, smolt-crashing, flesh-eating rainbows, and here’s what I’m bringing to the fight.
REELS & RODS
G. Loomis IMX-PRO 790-4 (9 foot, 7 Weight). When it comes to Alaskan trout, I’m a huge advocate for a 7-weight rod. Not only is there a very real opportunity to hook a lifetime-quality fish, the extra backbone of a 7-weight (compared to the standard 5 or 6 weight ‘trout’ rod) is a huge help when that rogue salmon decides to climb on. In addition, a 7-weight makes easy work of tossing wind-resistant mouse flies, massive streamers, and/or heavy flesh/egg rigs that are the norm in the 49thstate. My go-to Alaska trout stick is the G. Loomis IMX-PRO 790-4. It has tons of fighting power, is responsive enough to throw tight loops into even tighter windows, but is soft enough in the tip section to perform with minimal line outside of the rod tip (important when fishing for trout). I typically prefer faster rods for the salt (G. Loomis NRX or Asquith, please), but I lean on the IMX-PRO in the freshwater. [SHOP G.LOOMIS]
Hatch Finatic 5-Plus, mid-arbor. The 5-plus is the quintessential Alaska trout reel. Contrary to popular belief, it balances a 7-weight rod to perfection while remaining extremely light in hand. The mid-arbor spool is also able to store plenty of backing (especially Hatch Premium Backing) and when coupled with the bomber drag of the Finatic series, makes a fine tool to battle that happenstance salmon or steelhead as well. [SHOP HATCH]
Double-Hand (Trout Spey) Setup
G. Loomis IMX-PRO Short Spey 71111-4 (11’ 11”, 7 Weight). Alaska has an extremely wide range of trout-spey opportunities available to the two-hand enthusiast, ranging from skating mouse-patterns in small side channels to sending huge streamers to the depths with the heaviest of tips.Thus, I look for versatility in a two-hander when swinging for Alaskan trout. At 11’ 11”, the G. Loomis IMX-PRO Short Spey series is extremely versatile for a wide range of uses. Short enough to do damage in tight quarters, but long enough to chuck big casts with heavy tips (T-14? No problem). It also casts more like a full-length spey rod than a ‘snappy’ switch rod, which just further enhances the fun factor. [SHOP G.LOOMIS] Hatch Finatic 7-Plus, mid-arbor. I pair all of my short-spey and/or switch rods with the Finatic 7-Plus. For most rods in the 11-12 foot range, it balances nicely and the smaller size (compared to the 9-plus which I typically use for full-length spey rods) doesn’t crowd the bottom grip found on most shorter spey/switch rods. It also has a tough enough drag and the backing capacity to give me the confidence to battle most any fish one might encounter in Alaska. [SHOP HATCH]
LINE & LEADER
Airflo Super-DRI Nymph/Indicator fly line. I’ve been fortunate to review a lot of fly lines over the years, and I’m convinced that the Airflo Super-DRI Nymph/Indicator line is the best floating fly line on the market for Alaska, Kamchatka, or anywhere else tossing huge offerings to big rainbow trout is the norm. Don’t let the name of the line fool you, it’s far from just a ‘nymphing’ line! With an extremely short front taper and large tip diameter, it’s designed to turn over heavy or wind-resistant flies/rigs with ease. That being said, it also has a long belly section allowing you to carry a lot of line in the air (important for controlling long casts) and make better mends at longer distances (better drifts equals more fish). If that wasn’t enough, it’s also PVC free which means it doesn’t break down when exposed to things like bug dope, sunscreen, or gasoline.. All things that are pretty common in Alaska. [SHOP AIRFLO]
HATCH MED/HARD MONO 30 – 12lb. I prefer to tie my own leaders when fishing for trout. Not only is it cheaper than buying pre-packaged tapered leaders, tying your own gives you the versatility to position blood knots at strategic points on the leader to keep split shot from sliding, allow sections to be quickly added or removed when changing techniques, etc. [SHOP HATCH]
AIRFLO SIGHTFREE G5 PREMIUM FLUOROCARBON 0X – 4X. When it comes to tippet, I’m a believer in fluorocarbon. Being ultimately ‘clearer’ than nylon monofilament (it has a light refraction rate that’s closer to water than nylon), as well as being stronger per diameter, I stick with fluorocarbon tippet materials whenever fishing subsurface flies on a single hand rod.[SHOP AIRFLO]
Double-Hand (Trout-Spey) Setup:
Airflo Skagit Scout– 480 grain. When tossing large flies and/or tips is in the cards, Skagit style spey lines are essential. More and more, I’ve found I prefer shorter Skagit style heads in the 18-20 foot range, and at 18.5 feet, I’m a fan of the Skagit Scout for most of my fishing for trout and/or steelhead. When fishing the setup listed above (G. Loomis IMX-PRO 71111-4), the 480 grain Skagit Scout is my head of choice.[SHOP AIRFLO]
Hatch Med/Hard Mono– 12-16 lb. For most trout-spey applications (when fishing subsurface), I prefer a straight shot of 12-16 lb. monofilament, approximately four feet long. When swinging flies, because the fly is presented ahead of the leader/sink tip, I find fluorocarbon to be unnecessary. Nylon monofilament is also known to have a greater amount of stretch compared to fluorocarbon, which can help prevent break-offs from those electric grabs against a tight line. [SHOP HATCH]
Berkley Trilene Big Game Mono– 40 lb. Believe it or not, despite the many fantastic running line options available today, I still prefer to use plain ol’ Berkley Big Game monofilament for running line. Being slightly larger in diameter than most mono running lines, I find the 40 lb. to be easier to handle on wet/cold days. It also comes in a cool color called ‘sun collector’ which is really easy to see, and at only about eight bucks for 370 yards, I can rig approximately 10 rods for half the price of one spey-specific running line. [SHOP BERKLEY]
TOOLS & ACCESSORIES
Hatch Nomad Pliers. I don’t go anywhere near the water without my Nomads. I’ve used them to fix jet boat motors in the bush (ahem, not recommended), open countless Kaliks in the Bahamas, and cut all the leader material, tippet, fly line, wire, braid, backing, and bead pegs that my teeth aren’t up to the challenge for. In fact, I’ve had my last pair for 4 or 5 years now, and even after having helped rig thousands of anglers between Alaska and the Bahamas, I still have yet to replace the jaws or cutters. They’re a no-brainer. [SHOP HATCH]
Costa Motu Sunglasses. Quality sunglasses are critical to the serious angler. I carry two pairs on me whenever possible. My go-to model is Costa Del Mar’s Motu frames in two color variations: Copper Silver Mirror and Sunrise Silver Mirror. Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable, which makes a versatile lens extremely important. For the majority of conditions I find the Costa’s Copper Silver Mirror lens to be the best choice for variable light. On extremely gnarly days however, I’ve become a huge fan of their Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses. A yellow lens looking out, whether sight fishing for trout or stalking the flats for bonefish, they’re a game changer when it comes to spotting fish on cloudy days. [SHOP COSTA]
Garmin inReach Explorer.I carry my inReach with me wherever I go, and encourage other anglers interested in fishing Alaska to do the same. With two-way text messaging capabilities and an interactive SOS button that works off GPS (not cell service), the inReach is an incredible (and affordable) tool for staying safe when fishing in remote locations. [SHOP GARMIN]
WHO IS KYLE SHEA?
Kyle Shea is fly fishing guide, casting instructor, and fly fishing content creator/writer currently based out of Anchorage, Alaska. For over half a decade, Kyle oversaw Deneki Outdoors’ daily fly fishing blog while working as the head guide for Alaska West (a remote tent-lodge on the Kanektok River) in the summers and managing the fishing program at Andros South (a bonefishing lodge on South Andros Island in the Bahamas). Currently, when not writing about fishing, hosting fishing trips, or actually fishing, he’s spearheading the branding efforts for Bristol Adventures, the parent company for four lodges in Bristol Bay; Kulik Lodge, Mission Lodge, Grosvenor Lodge, and Brooks Lodge.