The Last Fishing Frontier

Follow the Rainbow
By Gary Laden for Quest Global Angling Adventures
  |  Gorp.com

Anglers wishing to specifically target large rainbow trout (in excess of 25 inches) should coincide their arrival in King Salmon with the June 8 opening of trout season. For the past six years, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has permitted only one rainbow trout under 18 inches per day to be retained from these waters. The result has been an excellent rainbow fishery, as these native fish mature and attain monster sizes.

According to King Salmon guide Chris Mutert, in early June the big rainbows leave Naknek Lake and head downstream in pursuit of sockeye salmon smolt. The rainbows gorge themselves on the hapless smolt. "This is an amazing natural phenomenon," says Mutert, "The water literally boils with millions of sockeye smolt. Seagulls and terns assault them from above and large rainbows are taking them at or near the surface. Trophy rainbows are vulnerable at this time."

Fly anglers have good success using a 7-8-weight outfit with weight forward floating and intermediate sink tip. The rainbows take size 8 through 10 Thunder Creek, size 2 through 8 blue smolt and 2 through 6 Olive Zonker streamer flies very aggressively. Anglers need to make relatively long casts to avoid spooking the smolt. The most productive retrieve is to strip quickly with the current.

As for spin-fishing, Mutert has experienced tremendous success using either floating or countdown 4-inch Rapalas (black/silver, blue/silver) and size 2 silver Vibrax spinners.

"There is a unique pattern for catching the big rainbows," he explains. "It involves determining the depth of the smolt and then working a fly or lure at that level. If the wind is blowing upstream, the smolt are deep (6-10 feet). If the wind is blowing downstream, the smolt use the windblown surface current to aid their migration and they are close to, if not on the surface."

According to Mutert, the early season trophy rainbow trout action lasts for about two weeks. In August, September and October the big rainbows are readily available again as they feed on king salmon eggs. Trout, char and grayling that we fished in August took fluorescent size 6 to 8 Glow Balls, Iliamna Pinkies and 4 mm plastic beads rigged on a small fly hooks kept in place with a split-shot about 8 inches above the fly. These flies were egg imitations, easy pickings for trout, char and grayling. We would make a tight-line drift with the current and entice at least one strike on every drift. Some in our party landed rainbow trout in the 10-pound range.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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