Rainbow Trout in Alaska

Rainbow Trout are one of Alaska's most sought-after sports fish. These fish have a diverse range and habitat. Some of the best fishing is located in the Bristol Bay Watershed and on the Kenai Peninsula, specifically the Kenai River and its' tributaries are well-known for trophy sized rainbows.

Rainbows are voracious feeders. They are known to follow the salmon and feed upon carelessly buried salmon roe and eggs. They are fond of roe from all five species of salmon. Once Salmon finish their spawning ritual and die, Rainbow Trout will feed on decaying salmon flesh. The smaller clear bottom streams and rivers offer rainbows year round food. When the salmon are not in the rivers spawning, the rainbows make a meal out of aquatic and terrestrial insects; in some cases, Rainbow trout will feed on mice and voles that haphazardly swim across the surface of the water. In the smaller streams, they grow to monstrous sizes. While a good sized rainbow will easily weigh ten pounds, a trophy rainbow trout can weigh up to 18 pounds and be 30 inches long.

Beautiful Rainbow Trout caught & relased with Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC - Kenai River, Alaska
Beautiful Rainbow Trout caught & relased with Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC - Kenai River, Alaska

Fishing for Monster Rainbow Trout

Start with an 6 or 7 weight rod, but consider an 8 or 9 weight rod if the salmon are in the streams. Rainbow trout are fighters so a medium to heavy size reel is needed with a powerful and reliable drag. Most areas are catch and release only for rainbows. The abundance of trophy sized fish is due to the catch and release policy. How you catch and land a fish will play heavily upon its survival once you release it. The Catch and Release rivers are found in this handy guide by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The expectation for sports fishermen is that they know how to catch and release fish. This guide explains the steps for catch and release, and lists the Alaska State Trophy Fish record holders. Maybe you can add your name to that list.

Best Flies for Rainbow Trout

Like many of the fish found in the Alaska river systems, fly selection is going to depend on what the river has to offer in terms of food. When the salmon are in the river, roe and egg flies work best. The color selection for roe, beads, and egg flies change depending on where the salmon are in their run. Fresh roe is brightly colored orange-red but older roe can range from pink to chartreuse in color. So if you are rigging up for rainbows during salmon season, consider the timing of the run. Rainbows are known to follow the king salmon upstream. They happily feed on roe all along the way. So from May through September, brightly colored flies in egg patterns work well. After the salmon have spawned and begin to die off, consider using cream colored "flesh flies" in a variety of sizes.

Rainbows are opportunistic feeders. They will strike a wide range of flies, but the flies that work are usually those that mimic what the river is offering. Insects, wooly buggers, flesh flies, egg sucking leech, and naiads will work too. Rainbow trout will also hit flies that represent frogs and mice. Be sure to have a well-stock - and varied - fly case when fly fishing for rainbow trout in Alaska. Dry flies or wet flies depend on the river and the time of year. For some of the best trophy rainbow fishing, try the waters around Lake Iliamna.

Additional Info

Great Video on fly fishing for Rainbow Trout in Alaska

How to tie a Moorish Mouse Fly