In Petersburg, you'll want a 7 or 8 wt. rod and you'll mostly be targeting chums and pink or salmon. You'll mostly be using a floating line, but either having a short sink tip or attachable sinking leaders (poly leaders) will be goods. Check out our Chum and Pink Selection to get an idea of the flies to use. Chum & Pink Selection
The other thing you'll want to consider is the trout and dolly fishing. In the creeks, they will be keying in on eggs and in the lakes they'll be eating leeches and buggers pretty good. For the stream fishing, a 5 or 6 weight rod will do just fine with a floating line. In the lakes, a sink tip will help greatly. Check out the Southeast Bead Selections and for the lake the Lakes of Alaska Fly Selection.
You are correct in that the WF8F Airflo Velocity is an 8 weight line.
Here's a quick break down of how to tell what a line is by the code. The first two letters always refer to style/taper of the fly line. In the case of WF it refers to Weight Forward. This means the bulk of the weight in the line that is used to cast the rod is in the front 30-40' of line. Weigt forward lines are the standard these days. Another taper that is sometimes still used today is the DT or double Taper. This style line was designed so that both ends of the fly line are identical. With this, anglers would use one side and when it wore out, they would simple take of the line and respool reverse and use the opposite side. Double Jeopardy if you will.
The number that follows the first two letters refers to the line weight. It is this number that we use to match up with the rod weight.
The last letter, letters or sometimes number mixed with letters refers to the type of line. For example the F stands floating, meaning that the whole line floats. S stands for sinking, F/S stands for floating with a sinking tip, etc...
Hopefully this will help resolve some of the confusion that can be fly fishing.
No problem getting your fly line and backing reconnected. The "go to" knot is the Nail Knot. A 5-6 turn Nail Knot will actually bite into the soft coating of your fly line and it gets tighter with more pressure. There are quite a few tools you can use that make tying it much easier. We really like the Tie Fast Knot Tyer. But you can always use a small diameter tube like a little coffee stir straw.
There are quite a few good diagrams and videos on the web that illustrate the exact steps for tying the knot. One piece of advice: After you tie the knot, give your backing several strong sharp tugs to make sure it doesn't pull off of your fly line. If it holds when you do this then it will hold when you hook into the big one!
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Felt soled wading boots or wading boots with fibrous sole are banned an all freshwaters of Alaska. This is in an attempt to protect the State's ecosystems from plant, animal and other invasive species. We highly recommend that all fishing waders, boots and attire be washed with a 0.5 % water/chlorine solution before being used in Alaska and again when brought back to home waters. It is us as anglers who can prevent the spread of invasives.
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Alaska is a big, diverse state both in stature and in the realm of fly fishing. Many consider the 9' 8 wt to be the "all around, one rod to do all" Alaska rod. But the question that often comes up is: "What lines, leaders, tippet and flies to bring?" The answer in short is: "It depend on when and where you will be going." The reason we say this is that the seasons and salmon runs vary across the state and this pertains to both fresh and salt water. Here's a general answer. For more precise recommendations, please shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lines: A large majority of the fishing we do in freshwater is done with a floating line with a 9' leader and weighted flies. A good front loaded weight forward line such as the Rio Grand is a great all around choice, especially when chucking the heavy streamers used in Alaska. Lines like this are versatile and can be used with a short 4-7' attachable sink tip or poly leader if the weighted fly isn't getting deep enough.
There are situations where a floating line, even with the aid of a poly leader do not cut the cake. In these situations, having a spare spool with a integrated sink tip line is ideal. These lines can have sink tips that vary in length and sink rates. Rio makes two series of freshwater sink tips. The Streamer Tip is a front loaded line with a 10' Type 6. We're finding this line to be a great choice when using it with really heavy streamers like Dolly Llamas and Hareball Leeches. Rio's DC 24' Sink Tips are great choices for fishing big rivers, lakes and even saltwater. The 300 grain is a good choice for a single hand 8 wt.
Not sure where you will be fishing or what types of water. Check out the Rio Versi Tip or the custom Super Versi Tips. These lines are a great choice for the "One line to do everything." The standard comes with interchangeable 15 tips (floating, intermediate sink, type three and type six sinks.) The Super Versi is supplemented with MOW Tips to for when a 15' tip is too long. These lines are great investments for Alaska fishing when there isn't room to pack a spare spool.
Leaders and Tippet: With a floating line, we typically use the standard 9' tapered leader and tippet to match. For most fishing we recommend using Salmon/Steelhead Leaders and matching it with Maxima Ultragreen for tippet when needed. This leader material is stout with a larger dia to breaking strength ratio. This is good for helping turn over large flies when fishing to salmon or swinging flies to trout and char. Trout leaders and tippet is good for fishing dries and nymphs to grayling and trout in the early season. For bead fishing, we recommend using fluorcarbon, or a mono leader to fluorocarbon tippet.
Flies: What flies to use when and where? This is probably the hardest question to answer because of how big and diverse Alaska is. The best thing to do is to contact us and we can make the best recommendations. We also offer some premade fly selections. One is called the Alaska Highway Selection which carries a little of everything. This could be a good choice for the traveler going everywhere.
The Kenai pretty much has four floats: Kenai Lake- Sportsman's (Upper), Sportsman's-Jim's Landing/Russian (Refuge), Jim's-Skilak Lake Upper Landing (Canyon) and Lower-Skilak Lake Landing-Bings Landing (Middle Float). The first three are non motorized float only with the exception of the first quarter mile below Kenai Lake. The fourth float is a motorized drift area. Here is a link to the fishing regs for the Kenai. Besure to check out the Emergency Orders on ADF&G's website before fishing. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/regulations/fishregulations/PDFs/southcentral/2015SCkenairiver.pdf. From Skilak Lake to Kenai Lake is all single hook, no bait allowed. See the Method and Means in the regulations.
As far as the float go, both the Upper and Refuge floats are fairly easy with mild rapids...maybe a class two on the upper. The biggest obsticles would be sweepers. The Middle is even milder as far as difficulty goes than the Upper and Refuge. The biggest problem with the middle is that you have to motor/row quite a ways to reach the river. If it is windy, then Skilak Lake can get really rough and choppy. The Canyon float is the hardest and most technical float and is not recommended for anglers with little rowing and white water experience. There are class III and IV rapids in the Canyon. The Canyon float is also great affected by wind and should not be done if the wind is predicted to blow up.
The Juneau area is predicted to have a very large run of both pink and silver salmon in 2015.
After the incredibly poor showing of pinks in 2014, the run is forecast to be "excellent" this year. The predicted numbers would put it in the Top 10 Harvests of the last 50 years. Bottom line, finding pinks on the fly should be pretty easy this year.
The Gastineau Channel silver salmon fishery is also looking to be outstanding. The fish are hatchery salmon returning to DIPAC and two factors are working in our favor here:
DIPAC's expanded facility has been producing larger numbers of coho smolt to release and 2015 is the first year we should see the larger run returning. 2014 was a very good year in the channel and the prediction is for TWICE as many returning fish this year.
DIPAC has been gradually switching their brood stock over to Taku River fish (Fish Creek to be exact) which are typically larger fish. This is the first year we will be seeing 100% Taku River fish.
Winter 2015 was almost snowless all over Alaska. They even had to move the Iditarod Sled Dog Race start from Anchorage to Fairbanks because there was not enough snow to race on!
My guess is the small tributary feeder streams will be very low this summer. If you have a DIY float trip planned and are landing in a headwater lake, be advised that getting boats down these small streams might be very difficult. Your air taxi operator should be able to suggest other options such as landing on a gravel bar part way down the river.
The medium sized and larger rivers will still be navigable and should fish fairly well. Side channels and braids in rivers may be low or non existent if the summer is dry. This will push all the fish into the main river channel. This does consolidate fish but if the river gets a lot of angler pressure it also puts all the fishermen in one channel, too.
All this being said, if it is a rainy summer then the predictions go out the window! In any event, the salmon will return and the Dollies and rainbow trout will be there to greet them.
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For sockeye in Yakutat and similar areas, you'll be fishing for them using a high stick nymphing technique. A floating line with a 9' salmon/steelhead leader in 10-12 lb will be key. Most guys do not use indicators and go by feel. We suggest using size BB split shot set about 18" above the fly to get it down. BB is a good size because you can always add or subtract to find the right depth.
We have a large selection of flies. Sockeye flies tend to be smaller than other salmon patterns and can be very flashy to dull. Greens, Chartreuses, Reds and Oranges are often the go to colors, but pink, purple and naturals can be good too. Check out Sockeye Lightnings, Sockeye Lanterns, Montana Brassies and Copper Swans. The Sockeye Orange and Sockeye Green are really good if you're looking for a larger hook.
When fishing, look for fish that are pooled up and holding. These fish are a lot more apt to take a fly than fishing that are on the move. Some rivers and streams allow two flies. Think about fishing a tandem fly set up with the two flies of different colors set about 18" apart.
That is a good question and the answer is.... it depends. It really depends on the watershed and what species of salmon are in that particular water shed. Mid August is usually a transitional time in many rivers with most seeing kings and chums starting to die off and seeing the sockeye start to spawn. Other systems like the Alagnak for example with just be seeing chums start to spawn while kings and sockeye will be in full spawn, The best bet would be to go with the Early Season Bead Selection and supplement it with a couple packs of 6mm mottled beads in Tangerine, Dark Roe and Montana Roe. This would provide you with beads to fish behind spawn kings, chums and sockeye.