I really enjoy fishing with 2 hand fly rods and a large percentage of my personal fishing is done with them. I have rods ranging from 11.5′ to fifteen foot 10 weight bombers and enjoy every one of them.The salmon here are no doubt a major focus for visiting anglers, however there are some wonderful trout fishing opportunities here in The Mat Su Valley drainages. I am able to guide fishing from the rivers in the Denali area all the way down to the Kenai Peninsula so there are an extraordinary number of possibilities for species other than salmon. For trout – char & grayling fishing I rely on conventional fly rods that I have been using for a long time. I use the same flies as I do on the 2 handers but on small streams I like light rods.

The photos I provide here will show you some typical trout water and fish from a July day.

Small Stream Trout0187

There are a couple streams that are my favorites and the size is what you see here. I fish these using rods ranging from my six foot six inch Orvis fiberglass to a 7′ 9″ Orvis Far & Fine. The Glass rod is a 1968 Full Flex that will cast a 5 or 6 weight line equally well and the Far & Fine is a #5 rod. Just because I can, I’ll add the rods to the pictures here too.

The old fiberglass is really fun for these creeks. You will catch fish between 10 and 20 inches and when you need to deal with 18 or 20 inches of jumping & running rainbow on a light rod it brings all your fish playing skills to the surface real quick, This type rod is able to land small salmon if you accidently run into one of them here but I make an effort not to when fishing for trout.

Click to enlarge & back arrow to return to page;

Full Flex0263       Full Flex0262

I use a number of different reels on the light rods and on this day had a CFO IV on my old Full Flex so I would have the rim to apply drag when needed. I have an old Martin MG-7 that is a good fit with the rod but it does not have the exposed rim and so isn’t used as often.

If we were to talk fishing and tackle it would be impossible that I wouldn’t turn the topic so that I could talk about my Far & Fine rod. I bought this in 1979 at the Yellow Breeches Fly Shop in Boiling Springs Pennsylvania. At the time when I got it I had been fishing flies for almost 11 years but had only ever dreamed of owning an Orvis rod. There were no Orvis franchises in my part of Pennsylvania back then and the nearest was Yellow Breeches. The trip was about 125 miles one way and I knew the way because I had already been fishing the Letort Spring which is very close to the Springs. After buying the Far & Fine I used it exclusively until I began fishing Great Lakes King salmon when I bought the big brother a 9′ 9 weight made by Orvis. In all the years of service the Far & Fine has caught species as varied as Atlantic Salmon to Pacific Silver Salmon and everything I ran into between those 2 oceans including Northern Pike. To say I love this rod would be accurate.

A couple photos of my most favorite fly rod;

All 2011 Nikon Pictures Oct 30138  The reel on that rod is a Hardy feather weight that I bought a couple months in advance of the rod. I found that for 65 dollars and bought 2 extra spools for 40 more. When is the last time you could have done that? It’s been a while and it’s been the greatest man / tackle relationship of my life as a fisherman.

Here is a better look at the reel sporting all its wear and scars that reflect years of faithful service.  All 2011 Nikon Pictures Oct 30107  They were a pair made for a fisherman, feather light in hand and strong enough to handle anything under 25 pounds. But then I started this article to talk about trout fishing small streams, not battling a salmon on light tackle. I should however ensure the reader that even with that rod, equipped with a 12 pound leader, I can bring sufficient pressure to bear on a fish so that the fight is ended quickly. I have caught enough large fish to have become efficient at doing it.

Back on point now; The streams here are different than any I have fished anywhere else. Because of the extreme conditions in Alaska and the short summers, there is not a large and diverse aquatic insect presence. There are May Fly and Caddis; Stone Flies and Dragons & Damsels……….. But not in such number in my region that you expect to dry fly fish. Even when surface activity is evident I continue to swing my streamers and Dee flies because the large fish will always take them.

Small Stream Trout0184         Small Stream Trout0185

That fly is my rendition of the old European pattern, the Jock O’ Dee. I tie that down as small as size tens but I believe the picture is of a #6 fly on a Partridge Bartleet hook. Between that pattern, my Ard’s Nine Three, and various Sculpin patterns, I can be a real pest to the trout here. I fish these flies using a ten pound Maxima Ultra green leader tippet. In the course of a few hours fishing they will get you some dandy trout.

Small Stream Trout0202             Small Stream Trout0203

And a few small grayling on this particular day;

Small Stream Trout0192

The stream shown here does not have its source at a glacier, it is fed of course by snow melt but much of the runoff enters after being gathered by a large system of wetlands and small tributaries which flow from bogs. This can give the water a dark tannin stain during periods of high rainfalls but it takes a lot to make it actually muddy.

            Small Stream Trout0182       Small Stream Trout0199

Spots like the logjam are pretty much what you would suspect, there was a really nice one in that deep water and……………. As you also may suspect he managed to get me tied around an old tree limb that is out there in that deep dark spot. Yeah, that’s about 7 feet deep right over by the pile and yeah I could see the tethered trout. You’ll have to talk to me in person or comment on the blog to get the rest of that story.

             Small Stream Trout0198       Small Stream Trout0196

On the day I did well with maybe a dozen and a half nice fish caught. No new state records but we didn’t see another soul and that is another part of why I like this so much.

 Small Stream Trout0193  As always, I fished and Boss watched over me. If you come to fish with me as your guide you will have both of us watching out for you. I count on his ears – nose and keen eyesight to provide peace of mind while I concentrate on fishing.

This small silver salmon was part of the days catch also, maybe a 3 pound fish it was a surprise when he came charging from behind a mid stream boulder and slammed the fly.

Small Stream Trout0195

All told, it was a perfect day to trout fish Alaska and a good time was had by man & dog alike.

Small Stream Trout0201



  1. December 3, 2013


    Thanks for the write up on fishing opportunities other than medium – large rivers for anadromous fish. I think the average angler usually thinks of that when thinking of Alaska. It’s interesting to learn more about the smaller streams and species of fish.

    By the way, that’s a fine selection of tackle!


  2. December 3, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Hi Jason,

    As much as I love messing with the 2 hand rods I was not born into that style of fishing. I spent 40 years fishing conventional fly tackle for trout and other species and it is as they say ‘dyed in the wool’ with me. So….every year I sneak away to trout streams with one of my little rods and tackle some real nice fish. You know, a 17 – 19″ rainbow which jumps and then goes streaking down a creek when you’re holding the grip of that little old Full Flex Glass rod feels the same as a silver salmon on a 13′ 2 hand rod :) And trust me, those old CFO VI reels have a wonderful buzz to them in such circumstances. I hope that some people in the coming years will want to target trout specifically because in some places you are the only one doing that.

    It’s hard to get after the trout and grayling both sometimes and this past season I (along with others I spoke with) had a great deal of trouble locating the fall fish as they droppen down the creeks and rivers to their winter ranges. I’ll write a post soon and try to explain what I have learned about the movements of the fish here. This is much different even for trout fishing, than the rivers and streams of the lower 48 states. The fish tend to ‘not’ be resident here, they are constantly changing their geographic location and this can be perplexing.

    Watch for that, I’ll give it some thought and try to make it worth reading.


  3. December 6, 2013
    Richard Reese

    would love to fish those small waters with my 3wt’s. Great pics!!


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