“Our” rivers and creeks offer unlimited fishing opportunities. Most of the season the water
runs crystal clear and enables the angler to sight cast for the prey. This method is a
breathtaking way to fish and makes for images that are hard to forget.
King and Sockeye Salmon are entering the rivers and creeks with the arrival of summer in May,
and will continue to arrive in June and middle July. July also offers the first chum salmon,
pink salmon and the main run of Sockeye. Silver Salmon start arriving in late July and last
throughout August and into September, sometimes October. During all of these months the
angling action never really stops, because fresh salmon keep migrating through the fishing
Imagine: Every morning you wake up in camp, gear up, go to the river, and over night new fish
have arrived. Fresh, untouched, eager, aggressive!!
In addition, “little” trout, char (Dolly Varden) and grayling are always somewhere to be found.
Our famed rainbow trout/char fishing begins in May during the smolt run and lasts throughout
the summer into mid-October until freezing weather lowers our river temperatures.
Subsequently, any fly turns into a clump of ice after a couple of casts! That’s usually when we
pack up and start looking for a tree to decorate.
May/June/July King and Sockeye Salmon
King salmon is probably the most exciting large species that can be taken by the freshwater
angler. We usually fish from shore or wade from shallow gravel bars to pursue these giant fish.
Casting to kings requires strong gear and technique for precise presentation, and to catch and
release properly. We prefer to use 200 yards of 80# test braided Kevlar line on strong casting
reels like the Ambassadeur 6500 (the more ball bearings the better). Rods are in the 30# class
and 9 to 12 feet long, casting 1-1.5 ounces easily. We like to swing single hook spinners, (Vibrax
#6), and bottom bounce corkies with six foot leaders on a double hook setup of 7/o Gamakatsu
Fly-fishing Kings puts a wicked twist in the sport since it requires a high level of physical skill to
subdue the fish when on the run. Again we recommend heavy gear to do the job right. Ten to
twelve weight rods are generally necessary to cast heavy lines and large flies. Shallowly fished
large, weighted, dark parasite (leech) patterns are our favorites to entice these fish into
attacking while you hold your breath and watch the take. Truly incredible fishing! To watch
these huge salmon move out of their holding position and strike the fly with a vengeance has
brought and still brings our blood to the boiling point.
We highly recommend 12-16 foot two-handed Spey rods. These Fly rod giants can be very
effective in fishing for king salmon, particularly in larger, heavily forested areas of the rivers
and creeks which are quite common here. You find yourself backed up against a wall of forest
or a high overgrown bank and simply no room to make a back cast. The ability to roll cast ala
Spey can quickly be learned and the strong long rods will be appreciated once you are tied into a
The longer rods have increased fish fighting power, tire the fish faster and allows for quick
catch and release, which is recommended in order to protect the resource.
Fly reels for king salmon should be large (3.5-4” spools) and preferably have a very resilient
drag system. A strong drag and an exposed spool rim for palm control. One hundred fifty yards
is usually plenty of backing for kings. 100# Kevlar will do the job without freezing the reel, and
the thick diameter makes it safe for handling. Leaders for kings consist of a single section of 25-
40# monofilament between 4-7 feet long.
These fish are without a doubt the tastiest salmon species but they are also picky and finicky
about the lures/flies used to catch them. Sunlight, (or lack of it), time of day, presentation and
a myriad of other factors are a challenge to any angler who wishes to hook into one of these
aerial beauties. Fly-fishing a 6-weight with a light sink tip line is the preferred method to catch
this salmon, but spin-fishing techniques can be successfully adapted. We use mostly green fly
patterns but have had great success with small shrimp imitations, normally used for tricky
bonefish. Lightweight rods and line are best used for fighting sockeye, and they can pack the
action pound for pound with their bigger brothers, like steelhead, silver, chum and the king
July/August Silvers, Chums, Pinks and Sockeye Salmon
Anyone who has fished Alaska in late July, August and September will attest that the Silver
Salmon, Pink Salmon, Sockeye and Chum Salmon can provide just about the fastest action that
can be experienced anywhere.
If fly-fishing, 7 and 8-weight rods with floating or sink tip lines are ideal for the silvers and
chums, while pinks and sockeye can be fished effectively with 6-weights. Silvers are aggressive
takers and strong, stubborn fighters.
We usually fish silvers in sloughs or backwater pools just off the
main river current. In these conditions, we use a floating line and
a sparsely tied and lightly weighted fly pattern. In faster or deeper
pools we use larger and darker patterns weighted appropriately.
A leech fly with or without an egg is the favorite pattern for silver
salmon and chums, tied in a side array of variations to match river
conditions, with cactus chenille bodies and flashabou dressing for turbid water. Other fly
patterns will take silvers, including flesh flies, egg imitations and Coho streamer variations in
Spinfishing requires medium light gear and pretty much everything that flashes, is colored
aggressively and at the same time presented over the fish not deeper than 1 foot under the
surface will lead to tight lines. Again, all of this is mostly sight fishing and will knock the wind
out of your waders!
Fishing for rainbow trout in Alaska is special and many anglers have put their king poles to
The first fish migration of the year is not that of the salmon but really that of the "Alaskan
Leopard Trout". As these darkly spotted hunters come out of the lower reaches of the big rivers
that provided them with shelter during the winter, they move upstream towards the summer
hunting grounds. Here in the foothills of the Alaska Range, the fine mesh of water arteries
releases the next generation of salmon.
These 2 to 5 inch long salmon smolt are swimming by the millions towards the ocean straight
into the fangs of the leopard trout.
The fishing experience is fantastic, not only because the fish are beautiful and numerous, but
also because the land and the water are struggling to free themselves from the grip of winter.
You will experience the energy that transforms our winter moonscapes into a vibrant
wilderness fishing ground. You can feel the arrival of summer when fishing in May, and the
bows will shred your gear and make you marvel!
When Salmon are spawning, rainbow trout begin their second feeding frenzy. Their
anticipation of salmon eggs soon to appear in the river causes many large rainbows to venture
far up the rivers and creeks, into shallow water spawning habitat. In late June, and early July,
king salmon hens are the first species to begin digging beds in coarse gravel in relatively fast
water. The rainbows are waiting downstream for the eventual escape of protein rich eggs. An
egg imitation pattern or bead drifted behind the kings will stimulate the rainbow to aggressively
The spawning activity disturbs rocks and gravel, releasing hundreds of caddis and mayfly
nymphs and other aquatic insects. The flood of insects is eagerly consumed and some bead shy
lunker leopard trout have been convinced with a copperhead nymph.
When pinks and chums are spawning in large numbers, we use smaller egg imitations. Fishing
the chum beds, usually results in almost non-stop rainbow action. Again, most of this is visible
to the eye and will completely mesmerize your senses.
Gear is the same as described for Silvers and chums
Grayling can be found throughout most of Alaska. These long-finned beauties are primarily
insect feeders and will take most flies, wet or dry, nearly any time of the season. We use
leeches, mosquito, black fly or gnat. If the grayling aren’t taking dries, nymphs or emergers will
These fish, a relative of the Arctic Char, are just as eager to take the fly as a rainbow. While
they don’t offer the top water action that rainbows are so famous for, they stay deep and pull
like a stubborn bulldog along the river/creek bottom. Once fought to the surface they will
oftentimes surprise you with their colorful appearance. Color variations from fish to fish are
quite stunning and occur simultaneously throughout the season.
Any fly or lure used to catch a rainbow will just as often entice a Dolly to take the hook.
Believe it or not everything you just read is true and the result of our lifelong addiction,
“Fishing in the Wild”.
We look forward to fish with you and until then wish you tight lines!
Sincerely Yours, Vamori and Axel Burgheim
Crystal Creek Outfitters
Enjoy this essay about our work and passion you will see this is written by
fishermen/women for fisherwomen/men!
Alaska is our home and the wilderness our fishing ground, get out here and check out
the fish tales yourself.
Vamori and Axel Burgheim