Wild Alaskan Rainbows are my favorite. Wading a clear, untamed river and anticipating hooking a Rainbow that can exceed thirty inches is my idea of the ultimate fishing trip. I grew up fishing throughout the Rocky Mountains for trout, but they fall short in comparison to the power and endurance of the Alaskan Rainbows.
You can't be passive when you set the hook on one these fish. I know it's a cliché' but they are explosive and if you aren't prepared to deal with it you won't have the fish on very long. You must let them run and follow them because you won't be able to turn them until they decide to.
On a sunny morning a couple of years ago I was guiding a man on his first trip to Alaska. We were fishing on a river in a Lake Iliamna drainage and I beached the jet boat near a stretch of water on the lower river. I had fished this run many times and I knew there weren't any logs in the water where I was now seeing logs. They had to be fish. Rainbows! The fish were sitting in a perfect spot to present a fly. I rigged the man's tackle and gave him instructions on how to fight a huge Rainbow. As he made the first few drifts I continued to coach him on the absolute necessity of allowing the fish to run once hooked.
I knew if we could land just one of these "logs" he would have truly caught the fish of a lifetime. I saw a fish take the fly and I yelled, "He's got it!" There was an explosion and the fish blasted away. As the man raised his rod to set the hook I attempted to tell him to "let him run, let him....." I never finished. There was a "BING" as the leader broke and I had to grab the guy to prevent him from falling over backwards into the water. We regained our composer and I rigged him up again all the while imploring him to allow the fish to run once hooked. Well, he hooked six rainbows from that stretch of water that I thought were
at least thirty inches and never had one on for more than five seconds. He just couldn't muster up enough self-control in the heat of the moment to keep from applying a death grip on the rod and a fistful of fly line between his hand and the rod handle. There just isn't any tippet material short of a small gauge wire that can stand up to this.
These fish had come up the river from the lake and there is just no margin for error when fighting them. They are blindingly quick and there power seems to have no bottom end. The man had an incredible experience that was frustrating and exciting. The frustration may have won out over the excitement but I tried to explain to him that very few people will ever get to hook one Rainbow over thirty inches. He got to do it six times and each one gave him that explosion that those Lake Iliamna Rainbows are capable of producing along with the blast of adrenaline that comes with the hookup. He tried to hide his disappointment and I my frustration.
He did catch a lot of Rainbows that week and he became a better fisherman but he never had another opportunity at a fish of a lifetime. They just overwhelmed him, but that is what you come to Alaska for. The chance, not the guarantee.
When you finally make the commitment to take that trip to Alaska, go prepared. The flies and techniques change as the season evolves and I will show you the best patterns and techniques and proper equipment. I have a pack of flies for June-July and another for August/September/October. The June-July package consists of eight flies. ($19.95 for the tying instructions and fishing techniques, or you can get the eight personally tied flies and fishing instructions for $29.95). Both packages include a list of recommended equipment to bring, tying instructions, picture of flies, and other helpful hints. Each additional set of flies is $20.95.
August-Sept.-Oct. consists of six nymphs. ($19.95 for the tying instructions and fishing techniques, or six personally tied flies and fishing instructions for$27.95). Each additional set of flies is $17.95 for Aug.-Sept.-Oct. Click here to order