How to Catch Alaska's Trophy Sportfish

by Christopher Batin

The late-June, early-July run is made up of second-run Kenai River fish that range from 40 to 90 pounds. While a boat ramp is available at Deep Creek, most anglers launch their car topper and trailered boats off Cook Inlet beaches. Deep Creek kings are concentrated into definite migration routes by Cook Inlet tides, which are the second highest in the Northern Hemisphere.

The author and a trophy salmon.


These routes hug the Kenai Peninsula shoreline from Anchor Point to the mouth of the Kenai River. Their corridor widths vary with tidal activity. A heavy outgoing tide concentrates kings near the bottom and from 75 to 100 yards out from shore. On an incoming tide, fish can be found at any depth, but they are most frequently caught near the bottom and from 5 to 75 yards from shore.

Fly Fishing for Kings

Fly fishing for kings calls for the same basic strategy used when fishing spinning gear. You have to find migration routes, trigger aggravation responses, and use large, fluorescent flies--tied with materials that
undulate in the water. Follow these pointers if you wish to hook kings successfully on fly gear.

First, position yourself so that you must cast upstream at a 45 degree angle to the fish or school. Drift a weighted Animated Alevin or an Ad-Bat attractor pattern down through the depths until it is within several feet of the lead salmon. Ever so gently twitch the fly across current while still maintaining its downstream drift through the school. A strike will usually occur immediately after a twitch.

Another effective technique is to work a fly through the outer edge of a school. Once it reaches the fish, slowly raise the fly toward the surface by lifting the rod tip, stopping only when the fly has surfaced. I've seen kings charge from the opposite side of the pool to strike a yellow Marabou Muddler fished in this manner.

In deep pools or runs, fish with weighted patterns and Scientific Anglers Uniform Sink lines. Since it's often difficult to impart the proper action to flies in 7 to 10 feet of water, you'll have to fish a fly on a collision course with a salmon, forcing the fish to intercept, rather than strike at, the fly.

A systematic fan cast starting at the head of a run and continuing in six-inch to one-foot increments to the tail of the pool has proved to be an effective casting pattern for me. The object is to saturate an area with the fly, and heighten the salmon's territorial aggressiveness. With a fly, the resulting strike is often barely detectable. Whatever the technique, persistence and consistency in presentation are the key factors in provoking stream kings to strike.

Pattern Preferences

I favor large, gaudy patterns for kings, especially those tied with fluorescent marabou, Flashabou and tinsel materials. In clearwater streams, I recommend chartreuse, fluorescent green, and fluorescent red marabou flies. In clear water/bright light conditions, kings can see a fly coming for quite a distance. The undulating effect of the marabou fly drifting downstream seems to be responsible for triggering many strikes.

Author's Note: In gathering material for How to Catch Alaska Trophy Sportfish, the book from which this short piece is excerpted, and for my fishing articles for various magazines, Adela and I have logged over 40,000 hours fishing lakes, streams, and saltwater throughout the state. We've experienced Alaska like few people have. Read this book, and you will catch trophy Alaska sportfish when others can't.