Alaska: Fly Fishing for Rainbow Trout

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Posted by David S on to Alaska Fishing Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing
Alaska Rainbow Trout

Alaska Fishing Lodges invite you to take on the challenge of Alaska Rainbow Trout. Alaska is known for some amazing fish from King Salmon to Halibut, but Alaska Rainbow trout are perhaps one of the most sought after fish that Alaska has to offer. There are a huge number of people who visit Alaska each year simply for the challenge and sport that Alaska Rainbow Trout offer. The following is an overview of the Alaska Rainbow Trout, their habitat and the food that they eat. 

Where to Find them:

The basic territory of the Alaska Rainbow Trout is the South Eastern portion of Alaska, but they spill into South Central Alaska and Southwestern Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the Rainbow Trout range as far East as the Kuskokwim River and as far west as the Kuskokwim Bay. The Kenai river is an excellent location for Rainbow Trout fishing. The best locations to find Alaska  Rainbow Trout are in the lakes, and tributaries of major rivers. In Spring, they spawn in the shallow waters and gravel riffles. Spawning can extend into early summer in years when the winter has been hard. Understanding the river is a key to successful fishing. 

River habits and how they change

Rivers are made up of geographic pieces that are connected as the river meanders along. Understanding those pieces can help you exploit the natural habits of Rainbow Trout. The primary focus is on the "type" of water, which is affected by the underlying physical structure of the river bed. The pieces that make up the river are as follows. Terms:

Riffles: Riffles are sections of the river where the surface of water is broken by rocks beneath the surface. This is a shallow section of the river that usually follows a run or a rapid.

Run: A Run is a long narrow, somewhat deeper stretch of river or stream where the water moves slowly. Runs can have bends in them though usually they are gentle. 

Rapid: A rapid is a very fast and usually rough section of the river with fallen logs, and larger boulders that create white water and standing waves. 

Flats: Flats are those area of the river where pools are created and the water is nearly still. These usually form after a natural barrier to the river, such as a rock outcrop or fallen trees, redirect or slow the flow of water. 

Pools: Pools are deep quiet section of the river. They come in a variety of sizes and can appear at the edge of rapids, next to riffles, and even in areas of the run. The water here moves in somewhat of a circle and at a slightly faster pace than that of a flat. 

Alaska fly fishing and Live Bait

Bait is only allowed from September 15- November 15 as means of protecting the Alaskan Rainbow Trout population. Rainbow Trout have a huge appetite. They love to eat. Their primary food source is aquatic insects such as Mayflies (Ephemeroptera,) Stoneflies (Plecoptera,) and Caddisflies (Tricoptera.) They will also eat Dragonflies, Damsalflies, and Beetles. Each of these insect orders is unique because when in their larval stage, which is called a naiad rather than a larvae, they are all aquatic. Mayflies, Stoneflies, and Caddisflies like oxygen rich water. That means that you will find them along riffle zones and in the water that is adjacent to riffle zones. They hide under rocks and attach themselves to submerged vegetation. Using an Aquatic net you can collect live bait from riffle zones. Entomologist (those of us who study insects) use a D ring net. The net opens up down-flow of the river. It is placed in the rocks of the riffle zone between our feet like this; Foot-Net sack-Net-Foot. The foot above the net is used to disturb the rocks. Gently rub your foot through the rocks directly above the net. Check the net often, and in so doing you will find plenty of aquatic insects to use as bait. If you have a minnow bucket, you can put then in there, minus the minnows. Dump some water into the bucket periodically to increase the oxygen content of the water and you can keep these guys alive most of the day. Fly fishermen can take advantage of this too. Though it is difficult to keep live bait on your hook with all the back and forth action of letting your line out. Instead use high quality naiad flies, or the flies of the adult variation of naiads for Alaska fly fishing. It is important to note that live bait can only be used during specific times of the year when fishing for trout. That is usually during September 15 -November 15. For more information view the Regulations. For Fly only fishing Catch and Release locations: Alaska Dept of Fish and Game. Also keep in mind that regulations change often. Be informed. 

The Fish and the River

The Rainbow Trout is a very shy fish. They are smart. They will usually see you long before you see them. The have three purposes in life. Those are safety, eating, and spawning. Safety means dark quiet waters. Pools with tree shade, underneath larger objects such as fallen logs and boulders make are good hiding spots for Alaska rainbow Trout. You will often find them below riffle zones because the current of the river washes away aquatic insects. Hungry trout will seek out riffle zones looking for food. Energy is equal to food intake for these fish. It takes a lot of energy for them to swim up riffle zones and that means that the pay off for food is lower for them. They prefer to sit and wait which is why they make such excellent targets for Alaska fly fishing. These fish that are prized because they are hard to catch. They also put up a fight similar to salmon. The record for Alaska Rainbow Trout is 42 pounds, 3 ounces. Alaska fly fishing is the best way to catch them. Many of the Alaska Fishing Lodges offer focused, guided Rainbow Trout fishing trips. 

Alaska Rainbow Trout Season: 

May and into the second week of June is a catch and release period. From mid June through September is prime season for Alaska Rainbow Trout. Within the trout family of fish, you will find Rainbow Trout, Cut Throat Trout, Dolly Varden Trout, and even Steelhead. From opening day, through mid July fishing for Rainbow Trout is good. The weather is usually nice and you should have no problem finding fish. By the third week of July, the fishing for Rainbows usually improves. By the fourth week of July, the Rainbow Trout season enters its peak and it remains at peak through September. The weather is usually good thorough August and then by September you run the risk of storms. It is advisable to check the weather updates often even during June, July, and August and especially in September. June is one of the best times for Insects in Alaska. That also means mosquitoes, midges, and biting flies. Often called &*()&^!!!! Alaska Fishing Lodges advises that you plan ahead and bring insect repellant. 

Fishing for Alaska Rainbow Trout

Using an Alaska fishing guide is one of the best pieces of advice. Not only do they know where the good fishing spots are, they often know where the trophy fish have been caught. They also should have all of the equipment that you will need. If you remember the geographic terms of the river, the place to find Alaska Rainbow Trout that are hungry is in the areas below the riffles. Rainbow trout are quite willing to travel to find food. They like the deeper and calmer waters of flat, runs, and pools. Standing above a riffle zone and letting your fly drift down river is one technique. If you are fishing in deeper water lures and flies with some action can also help. Rainbow Trout eat everything, though their diet is mostly aquatic insects. They will eat smaller fish, algae, crawdads, and snails. June through September is best times for Insects in Alaska. That also means mosquitoes, midges, and biting flies. Think ahead and bring insect repellant.

Where to Stay:

Alaska Fishing Lodges presents a partial list of places that offer guides specifically for Rainbow Trout. The list is arranged by geographic area. These lodges are somewhat different than those that are geared up for saltwater fishing expeditions such as for Halibut. It is a good idea to contact a few and find one that best suites your travel and fishing needs. 

South Eastern Alaska:

Alaska Rainbow Lodge (Southeastern Alaska) is made for Rainbow Trout fisherman. Amenities include; full service kitchen, all-inclusive meals, hot water, WiFi, game room, and more. This is a specialty lodge for Alaska fly fishing that focuses on Rainbow Trout and Salmon. Excellent for Southeastern Alaska.

South Central Alaska:

Alaska fly fishing Camps services the South Central Alaska area. Amenities include full service kitchen, all-inclusive meals, hot water, running water, and experienced guides. 

Yentna River Lodge (South Central Alaska) offers electricity, full kitchen, hot water, propane grill and more. This beautiful lodge specializes in salmon and rainbow trout and is accessible by air only. Experience guides! 

Arden's Kenai Lake Escape (South Central Alaska) specializes in salmon, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, and Dolly Varden. Amenities include Electricity, Full service Kitchen, Hot Water, running Water, all-inclusive meals, and complimentary cocktails, and more. Experienced Guides!

Southwestern Alaska

Southwestern Alaska offers more than 25 lodges for Rainbow Trout. A few of these are:

Bob Toman's King Camp, which offers All-Inclusive Meals, Electricity (Part-Time), Full Service Kitchen, Hot Water, and Running Water.

Crystal Creek Lodge which offers All-Inclusive Meals, Full Service Kitchen, Game Room, Hot Water, Running Water, Telephone at Camp, and Electricity (Always On.)

For a full listing: Alaska Fishing Lodges

No-See-Um Lodge - Alaska's Finest