None of us need and excuse to buy more fishing gear. None of us. However, there is always that special reason to indulge yourself or to let someone else indulge on you. At Rapids Camp Lodge, our fishing program is fairly diverse. As a Bristol Bay fly out lodge, we fly out to a variety of locations sight fishing to giant rainbow trout, dry fly fishing for arctic grayling, swinging flies to king salmon or mousing up rainbows in a small stream. The fishing program has a righteously dignified place for every angler, no matter what type of fishing they favor. In an effort to make your adventure angling life a little simpler, I made a perfect world “wish list” of sorts in regards to Alaska fly out fishing gear. This is the gear that I have found to be the most useful for each application broken down by species.
Rainbow Trout – One of the most popular pursuits at Rapids Camp Lodge, it commands a great presence. Many discussions are had about what constitutes a perfect Alaska trout rod. For our fishing program, I prefer three different rods each for a specific application. First, a 9’ 7 weight 4 piece moderate fast action rod for fly out sight fishing and mousing. Many will argue that a 6 weight is more than enough rod. In some cases it is. However, with wind and potential high water fishing, the 9’ 7 weight is superior. Plus, it gives the lifting power needed to beat down a hot fish in fast water quickly. That’s important. We aren’t killing rainbows for sport. With the current graphite technology, a 7 weight barely feels heavier than a 5 weight. So a 9’ 7 weight with an aggressive head taper floating line would be perfect. Rio Big Nasty and Scientific Anglers smooth Anadro seem to be the best right now combined with 0X, 1X and 2X leaders. This 9’ 7 weight set up is also perfect for fishing the smolt busts out in front of the lodge in the lower rapids proper. Secondly, a 10’ 7 weight is ideal for drift fishing the Naknek and Kvichak rivers. The extra foot of rod length makes mending and carrying line much easier when you need to manage more line beyond the rod tip. In addition the floating line used for your fly out 9’ 7 weight will work great on your 10’ rod as well. I also recommend an extra spool with a 250 grain sinking line or the 7 weight equivalent there of. On occasion the sinking line works great for Naknek and Kvichak River rainbows when we aren’t drifting from the boat. Lastly, if you are booked in to swing flies with Spey rods for the late season rainbows on the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers, you just need regular fall steelhead gear. A 13’6” 8 weight (550-600 grain) rod works nicely. Paired with a choice of both floating and intermediate Skagit heads. Scandi heads and long belly lines will not perform the way you will need them to. If you don’t have a skagit head for your steelhead rod, please purchase one before you get to the lodge. It will be the difference in catching the fish you came to Alaska for versus watching someone else catch it. In addition, you will need a variety of sinking tips for various river conditions. Anything from 10’ of T-10 to 15’ of T-18 and 20lb fluorocarbon for tippet.
Arctic Char – I cant imagine a single soul that doesn’t love a big ol’ grandaddy char all clowned up in late season colors. They are literally the surviving dinosaurs of Bristol Bay. A 30” char could be as old as 30 years. Short growing seasons combined with a salmon based food source produce some epic sized char in a variety of fly out fishing opportunities with Rapids Camp Lodge. The same 9’ 7 weight fly rod with the same aggressive head taper floating line and leaders that we use for trout fishing works perfectly. In addition, the extra spool with the sinking line for the same 7 weight is useful in specific conditions.
Arctic Grayling – It could be one of the most underrated sport fish in Bristol Bay. Their willingness to eat dry flies, subdued colors and their overall agreeable attitude towards anglers make them a classic sport fish. For the majority of arctic grayling pursuits, a 9’ 5 weight is just fine. A big one will be pushing 20” and requires somewhat of a delicate presentation. A moderate fast action rod with a dry fly presentation line works great. Scientific Anglers smooth Trout and Rio Gold lines work great combined with 3X leaders and tippet.
Pacific Salmon – It’s the heart and soul of Bristol Bay. Thousands of anglers trek to the region every season in pursuit of fish boxes full of this salmonid gold. Each species is a little different in regards to gear. So lets simplify it- Pink Salmon will require the 9’ 7 weight, floating line trout set up. Easy enough. Sockeye, Silvers and Chums need a 9’ 9 weight with both floating and sinking lines. When Sockeye fishing, you are hauling a little bit of split shot with a sparsely tied fly. It’s not finesse fishing, its utilitarian. A mature adult sockeye will be the toughest 7-8 pounds of sport fish you will ever challenge. You will need the lifting power of the 9 weight fly rod. Silvers are known for their relentless aerobatics and drag pulling capabilities when hooked. These magnificent fish bite stripped flies well, make great table fare and can weigh up to 15 pounds. The 9’ 9 weight fly rod is simply perfect for them combined with both floating and sinking lines depending on our selected fishing location. Chum salmon could unarguably be the most convivial species for the Spey rod angler. They bite swung flies exceedingly well, pull lots of drag and can be pretty good table fare when caught in tidewater conditions. The 13’6” 8 weight Spey rod used for fall/winter steelhead works wonderfully. Chums rarely require much more than an intermediate tip but its a good idea to have a small variety of sinking tips. If you are not planning on using Spey rods for chums, the 9’ 9 weight single hand rod with a floating line will work just fine.
King Salmon – The largest of all the pacific salmon species. They will test your gear, patience and fortitude as an angler. Rapids Camp Lodge fishes for Kings on the Nushagak River almost exclusively. The Nush has the largest run of King Salmon on the planet making our plight a little more suitable. We use a combination of Spey rods and conventional gear methods to pursue them. The use of two handed rods on the Nush has recently become a staff favorite. The massive flows, huge fish counts, long sweeping gravel bars and pinch points are textbook perfect for the willing Spey angler. 14’-15’ 9 and 10 weight rods have never been more properly at home than on this powerful and legendary river. We use floating and intermediate skagit heads, sinking tips from intermediate sink to T-18 and 30lb fluorocarbon tippet for this endeavor. Kings never disappoint. All the lodge boats used for king fishing are equipped with the appropriate conventional tackle.
Lastly, let’s cover fly reels. I will not get into the discussion of brands and manufacturers. There are too many opinions and preferences for me to draw that distinct line in the sand. Nor am I willing to open the discussion on sealed vs unsealed drags. Both have their place in Alaska fishing. However, I will say that a good quality fly reel is essential gear. The sport fish of Bristol Bay will test your drag and could take you into the backing. Just make sure every reel in your repository is quality with a dependable drag system. I have spent too many years watching value based fly reels completely disintegrate. The bush is no place for equipment failure. The quality of your trip isn’t worth not spending a little extra to insure that doesn’t happen.
In conclusion, this is a perfect world wish list of Rapids Camp Lodge fly fishing gear. If you don’t have exactly what is mentioned in this blog post, let us know. We will be more than happy to help you get your gear sorted through. There are always exceptions and ways to make something work. Don’t be afraid to ask and we wont be afraid to help.
Thanks for reading!
Head Guide Rapids Camp Lodge
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