Besides the salmon and the leopard rainbows that we target at Alaska West, we have a whole lot of fun fishing for Dolly Varden.
Dolly Varden and Arctic Char are really closely related in our part of Alaska. So closely related, in fact, that the Alaska Fish and Game biologist responsible for them thinks we’ve got both in our river. They have complex life histories and in our neck of the woods =they’re indistinguishable without a genetic test…we tend to call them all ‘dollies’ regardless but we know for sure they’re a ton of fun to catch.
Most of our dollies spawn multiple times. They run up the Kanektok pretty much all summer long, with a number of noticeable ‘sub runs’ overlapping and containing fish of different shapes, sizes and colors. In general they’re chrome with a slight green tint when they enter the river, and some in their spawning phases turn the wacky circus colors that led to dollies near the spawn being called ‘clowned up’.
They sometimes eat flesh and streamers, but most of our time spent targeting dollies involves fishing beads. Fishing your 5 weight on a productive dolly flat is a whole heck of a lot of fun. Some sections of river have an almost uncountable number of fish. The action is fun, fast-paced and easy!
If you find yourself on the Kanektok one of these years, make sure to spend some time fishing lightweight gear for dollies. You’ll be glad you did.