One thing we love about our native Alaskan rainbows (aside from their size, beauty, and aggressive nature, of course) is that we get to target them using a bunch of wild techniques that you might not otherwise get to try in other parts of the world.
From skating rodent imitations, to stripping ridiculously large streamers, to swinging flies on spey/switch rods, to sight-casting on foot in tiny side channels, to dead drift drifting salmon flesh/egg imitations, to tossing poppers into bait busts to smolt corralling predators, we find chasing Alaskan trout is far from most angler’s perception of ‘traditional’ trout fishing.. In a good way, that is.
With a fixed base ‘tent-lodge’ on the banks of the Kanektok River in Western Alaska and a full-service fly out lodge on the Naknek River with access to the famous trout streams of Bristol Bay, we’re lucky to be smack dab in the middle of some of the finest rainbow trout waters throughout Alaska. That means we’re often able to catch trout using more than one method, which begs the question; what’s the best way to target Alaskan rainbows?
To answer, we reached out to our team of professional fly fishing guides to ask their favorite ways to target trout in our waters, and here’s what they said.
Guide Poll: Favorite Ways to Target Rainbow Trout
Dan Herrig, Owner/Guide, Deneki Outdoors: “Swinging flies. Its a direct connection between fish and man. No split shot and no indicators to buffer the response.”
Kyle Shea, Head Guide, Alaska West. “While I’ve been fortunate to chase some pretty awesome species in some pretty wild species around the world, no species has pulled at my heartstrings more than Kanektok rainbows. When it comes to targeting them, I’d say I have an affinity (or maybe obsession?) with targeting the largest trout in the river by whichever method is conducive to do so depending on the timing of the year, water conditions, etc. Sometimes that’s rowing the jet boat ‘drift-boat style’ with mouse flies, large streamers, and/or flesh/egg imitations to cover the most water possible, and sometimes that’s stalking side channels when there’s incentive for Walter to move out of the main river. Quality vs. quantity? Given the option, I’ll cash in for quality every time.”
Jason Whiting, Operations Manager/Guide, Alaska West. “Crittering and sight-fishing. The visual aspect of throwing a mouse or a sculpin to a trout and watching them come up and smash it in small water is unbeatable..”
Jim Palmersheim, Guide, Alaska West: “Mousing, sight-fishing, swinging flies on spey rods, stripping streamers, and drifting from a rowed boat.. In that order. I like to be active while fishing. Mousing is all about the fish’s take.. They are all different, and over the years I’ve seen some amazing takes. It takes a good cast to place it in the zone which in most cases is right up against the bank in the soft water. Swinging and stripping streamers would be a close second.. still active.”
Ben West, Guide, Alaska West: “I have earned a whole new respect for rainbow trout since guiding in Alaska. These aren’t your cookie cutter stockers you find elsewhere in the lower 48. The trout up here, especially in western Alaska are carnivores who chow down on sculpins, salmon flesh and eggs, and grow to mammoth proportions. Due to their high protein diet, they take on incredible colors and often a vibrant stripe! My favorite way to target Rainbow Trout in Alaska is to drift in my jet boat and cover a lot of water. Its incredibly fun to beat the banks with mouse patterns and also to dredge sculpins and flesh to try to bring out the biggest fish the river inhabits! Drifting is an effective way to cover a lot of water and a way to fish without over pressuring a single side channel.”
Tom Houska, Guide, Alaska West: “My favorite method of targeting rainbow trout is when the occasion arises to sight-fish. Generally speaking, being able to visually target trout is most common in the mosquito-ridden side channels of the river. Watching rainbows slurp a well drifted egg or streamer brings a rush of excitement that is arguably more satisfying than actually landing the fish.”
Ryan Gossett, Guide, Alaska West: “My favorite way to target rainbows is mousing because the way they attack the fly is like nothing else. Super visual and action packed fishing. Coming in a close second would be swinging flesh and streamers on a small spey/switch rod. The reason for that is I love the act of swinging flies, and you can run into some true monsters.”
Rob Rymph, Guide, Rapids Camp Lodge: “Swinging leeches and sculpins because it is a very realistic presentation of common food items. The grabs are pretty cool too.”
Cole Cook, Guide, Alaska West: “Sight-fishing. Who doesn’t love it? For one, you’re not limited to what you can throw. It opens up the opportunity for mousey, sculpey, beads, whatever you want. Once you spot a fish, you can pick out how you want to catch him given the scenario, water speed, depth, structure, casting room, and so on.. and then, well, catch him.”
Lucas Young, Guide, Alaska West: “It’s hard to beat the visual appeal of watching a rainbow eat a mouse pattern. Whether drifting or stalking side channels, the eats can be explosive, subtle and everything in between.”
Cole Leishman, Guide, Alaska West: “Mousing. There is nothing better than watching a predatory leopard rainbow blast out from the sticks to inhale a Mr. Hankey mouse fly.”
Interested in targeting big native rainbows using the ways mentioned above? If so, then drop us a line and let us show you some of our favorites.