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Ultimate Flies for Dolly Varden

Anglers pursuing dolly varden on the fly often find themselves in one of Alaska’s pristine watersheds. These fly fishing trips create exciting and unique experiences for any anglers! Truly, there are no environments like the arctic and subarctic regions that dollies call home. For best success while visiting these destination fisheries, show up with a designated selection of flies for dolly varden!

As Alaska fly fishing guides, we find that our guests enjoy catching dolly varden above many of our other available species. They fight hard and put on acrobatic shows once hooked. 

While dolly varden are not known to be picky eaters, they can be easily fooled by a variety of flies. Some of our favorite patterns for dolly varden include Jerry’s Waker Maker, Egg Sucking Leeches, Egg Eating Sculpin and above all else, beads – which work the best!

Flies For Dolly Varden
Flies For Dolly Varden // PC Greg Houska

Dolly Varden Flies

Throughout the season, guides who concentrate on dollies the most are constantly trying out a variety of fly sizes and colors. This continuous tweaking allows for success throughout the ever-changing seasonal dynamics of Alaska’s watersheds. Sometimes, just changing the color of the ‘egg’ on an egg sucking leech can be a gamechanger. 

While the best dolly varden flies do change throughout our guide season, there are some classics that can’t be beat! A good selection for streamers, beads and even dry flies should cover the basis for a Dolly Varden fly fishing trip. The streamers should be weighted to get down to the bottom of the river. The best steamers in Alaska are ones that get down quickly!

A common tactic for success is pegging a bead in front of the streamer pattern of choice. This simple guide hack works wonders, and increases the fishes interest in the pattern significantly.

Best Flies for Dolly Varden

Below we discuss some of our favorite commercially available patterns for dolly varden fly fishing in Alaska. It doesn’t take much to fool these beautiful fish! But remember, dollies care more about the presentation of the fly than the fly itself!

Beads are best!

Nothing will beat fishing a bead for dolly varden, Nothing! Anadromous dollies’ whole life cycle revolves around access to salmon eggs, which is exactly what beads imitate. Depending on the fishery and the time of season, the best bead will vary. Mostly, this depends on what salmon are actively spawning. Dollies are not as selective as trout, so typically you can get away with any size 8 or 10 mm beads in tangerine, apricot, or ruby coloration. Beyond that, defer to your guide for their go-to bead!

Dollies love the Dolly Llama

The Dollly Llama Fly is a must-have pattern for dollies. We love it because it is easy to tie, it is effective for a variety of species, and it is an attractive pattern with a lot of movement in the water. Due to the versatility of the pattern, it can be successfully fished in a variety of water conditions and depths. After all, it is a fast sinking pattern!

Flesh Flies for Dolly Varden

Various flesh fly patterns are extremely effective for catching resident fish in Alaska. This style of fly pattern mimics rotten salmon flesh, which is an abundant seasonal food source. For Dolly Varden, flesh flies tied with a combination of rabbit fur and beads works phenomenally. This combination of colors creates a realistic look, of a chunk of flesh and eggs which entices dollies for the easy protein. 

When fishing a flesh fly, anglers should focus on the deeper pools of the river and subsequent shelfs and drop offs. The current in the water can be tricky, but keeping the flesh fly dead drifting makes it look the most natural!

Jerry French’s Waker Maker

The Waker Maker by Jerry French is a unique, and practically unsinkable fly pattern. Our good buddy Jerry designed this fly as a surface skater for steelhead, but it works wonders for dollies. This fly is definitely not as productive as sub-surface streamer patterns, but it is a great way to shake things up. We find the versions of this pattern that have a bead rigged into the pattern works best for dolly varden.

Senyo’s Egg Raider Sculpin

Greg Senyo’s Egg Raider Sculpin is a streamer fly that imitates a sculpin eating an egg. It has a medium to large profile with a colorful bead head to get attention from fish. This style fly works great, especially in Alaska! Designed to be fished in deep pools and runs, this fly can get down in the water column quickly! This pattern is a great choice for targeting large Dolly Varden.

Bow River Bugger

The Bow River Bugger is a great fly pattern for dollies and rainbows in Alaska! commercially tied with durability in mind, this pattern can handle a lot of use! Designed with a slim profile and a weighted conehead, its natural movement mimics baitfish and salmon smolts. In addition, the marabou tail creates a lot of movement and flash in the water, making it very attractive to dolly varden. If tying this pattern yourself, don’t be afraid to add a colorful conehead to it!

What flies for Dolly Varden? A Review

While we’ve talked about some of our favorite commercially available patterns for Dolly Varden it is also worth discussing what makes a good fly for these colorful fish! Well, the flies that work best for dollies are large to medium in size, can be colorful – although dark and natural works best. For best success though, make sure it has a bead included!

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