Our Trout Like Big Flies

underwater trout on flesh at Alaska West
Big fly, small hook, big trout. Photo: Bruce Chard.

The trout in our neck of the woods typically don’t pay much attention to ‘traditionally sized’ trout flies. A size 12 elk hair caddis would be the equivalent of eating the parsley garnish on the side of your steak dinner..

A short growing season, and constant supply of large high calorie food items (i.e. mice, sculpin, salmon flesh, and eggs), causes our trout to key in on large meals throughout the majority of the season. Therefore, some of the flies we fish are bigger than most trout anglers are use to. Just check out this awesome underwater photo of a trout on a massive flesh fly courtesy of Bruce Chard.

However, big flies doesn’t mean big hooks and we tie most of our larger flies using small ‘stinger’ style hooks in the size 4-8 range.

Other Cool Photos of Fish




Adjustable Indicator Rigs

Strike Indicator Rig
Simple.. But effective. Photo: Kyle Shea

We’re on the back half of our season here in Alaska and that can only mean one thing.. It’s steak and eggs season! This time of year, our resident rainbow trout are taking full advantage of the continuous supply of salmon parts tumbling down river. Therefore, we ‘match the hatch’ and fish our share of flesh and egg imitations.

Getting down and dirty is the name of the game when fishing flesh flies or beads for trout and often times we fish our flies under an indicator to ensure a nice ‘drag free’ drift. We’re big fans of ‘thingamabobber’ style strike indicators for their buoyancy and castability (relative to classic yarn indicators). However, rigging a thingamabobber in the typical fashion of looping it up and over usually leads to a kinked leader and an indicator that must be removed in order to be adjusted.

Well, we stole a page out of Alaska West guide Jim Palmersheim’s playbook for a super clever way to rig strike indicators. No kinked leader, easily adjustable, and a great reason to hold on to that old fly line. Check out how!

  1. With an old piece of fly line, make a simple 3-4 turn nail knot onto the butt section of the leader. Clip both tag ends.
  2. Thread the thingamabobber onto the leader.
  3. Make a second 3-4 turn nail knot onto the leader with fly line below the indicator.
  4. Slide both nail knots up against the indicator.
  5. To adjust, simply slide the nail knots to the desired depths.

Note: Due to the ‘sticky’ nature of fly line, and the fact that we prefer knotted leaders (of level leader material) the nail knots do a great job at securing the indicator during casting, hook sets, etc. However, if using knotless tapered leaders, this technique does not work quite as well due to the changing diameter of the leader material.

More Tricks With Fly Line

Alaska Trout Fishing

Trout Fishing in Alaska
Tosh shows it like it is. Photo: Tosh Brown

Well, this picture we think captures an awful lot about trout fishing in Alaska.

  • Angler
  • Guide
  • Big net
  • Beautiful spots
  • Deep red stripe
  • Big tail
  • Clear water
  • Flesh fly

What else?

Tosh Brown took this picture.

More on Trout Fishing in Alaska

Michael White’s Flesh Rig

Flesh Rig for Trout
Fish like this love flesh.

Last week you got to hear about how Michael White chases rainbow trout at Alaska West with a switch rod.  Today we bring you the rig he uses to imitate everyone’s favorite food source – nasty, decomposing chunks of salmon flesh!

The Summary

  • Sage 691-4 ONE
  • Ross Evolution LT #3
  • Rio Coldwater Clouser Line, 6 Weight

The Detail

  • 20 pound dacron backing attached to the spool with an arbor knot
  • Fly line attached to the backing with an Albright Knot. “I cut off the factory loops because I’ve just always been more of a knot guy than a loop guy.”
  • 3 feet of 20 pound Maxima butt section, attached to the front of the fly line with a 6-turn nail knot
  • 3 feet of 15 pound Maxima, attached to the butt section with a blood knot
  • 3-4 feet of 10 pound Maxima, attached to the 15 pound section with a blood knot
  • 1/16th oz bullethead bass weight, free sliding on the 10 pound section of Maxima. “I use anywhere 1/4 oz to 1/32 oz weights depending on the depth of the water I’m fishing.”
  • Idylwilde McDonough’s Yardstick Flesh fly in Fresh Peach, tied to the 10 pound Maxima with a non-slip mono loop.  “It’s 4 inches of jiggy, fleshy, beady goodness.  It has an up eye and the loop gives it lots of jiggy action.”

The Commentary

“I’m using a single-hander when I’m fishing primarily out of the boat, or when I’m batting cleanup in a side channel with somebody fishing a mouse in front of me.”

“I use a 9 to 10 foot leader coupled with the bullet head bass weight because when I’m fishing out of the boat, the bullet head gives incredible control over the depth of the fly. I can easy lift and drop the fly into feeding zones and into the buckets that most people aren’t getting to.”

“The key thing about fishing out of the boat with this system is to always keep your eye on the fly, and lift and drop it over and around structure. I’m not just throwing it out there and blindly letting it drift along. I’m really actively steering it around the structure so I have to always keep my eye on the fly.”

“The non-slip mono loop keeps the bass weight from dropping down on to the head of the fly. The free sliding bass weight will slide up the leader and pull down into the zones, letting the flesh fly swim more freely.”

More Rainbow Trout Rigs

Rainbow Trout Flies – 5 Favorites for Alaska

Trout Stripe by Louis Cahill Photography
Stripe detection tools. Photo: Louis Cahill

As we mentioned on Friday, it’s trout time at Alaska West.  Late July trout fishing rocks!

If you’re headed to Alaska West to chase our legendary leopard rainbows, here are 5 flies that we think you should bring along.  Idylwilde makes some pretty awesome trout flies – these are all available from your local Idylwilde dealer.

  1. Hickman’s Mr. Hankey.  If you’ve read our blog much, you know that Jeff Hickman has guided at Alaska West for years.  He’s a really innovative tier and developed this pattern based on his experiences on the Kanektok and Arolik Rivers.  Hit the link for some more background and design info.  Mousing is fun.
  2. Hickman’s Egg Stealing Super Sculpin.  Sculpins produce all season long.  This is a big fly for big fish.
  3. Silvey’s Tandem Tube – Black Egg Sucker.  Black leeches work anywhere trout swim.  The tandem tube has super movement in the water.
  4. Hickman’s Bite Sized Flesh.  Yep, three Hickman flies in this list!  We like the Bite Sized Flesh because you can fish it in all types of water – skinny, deep, side channels, main river, spawning beds and more.
  5. Fox’s Sleech – Fresh Flesh. On the other hand, this thing is massive!  If you’re fishing the lower Kanektok in pursuit of the big boys, you’re going to want to drag a big flesh fly around snags and dropoffs.

You should bring some beads along too, but including beads in a list of favorite flies just didn’t feel right…

More Favorite Flies

5 Ways to Catch More Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout Tips
Somebody's been reading our blog! Photo: Louis Cahill

Catching rainbow trout at Alaska West is not all that difficult – in fact it’s easy to catch ‘some’.  That being said, great anglers catch more, and great anglers catch the bigger ones.  Here are 5 ways you can make yourself into a ‘greater’ trout angler in our part of the world.

  1. Mend less.  Our trout are not particularly sensitive about drag-free drifts.  Hitting as many good spots as possible is much more important than presenting perfectly.  Don’t get all cutesy with your mends – hit more spots with decent drifts.
  2. Let him eat it.  Particularly when mousing or fishing big leech or sculpin patterns, it’s very common to see a fish tear out from under some structure to crush your fly.  Don’t jump the gun!  Let him eat your fly, close his mouth and turn before you set.  With big flies, a quick trigger is a bad thing.
  3. Leave your 5 weight for the dollies and grayling.  Listen Tex, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.  6s and 7s are the norm for trout on our rivers.  Unless you’re sight casting to fish that you know aren’t super-grande, it’s best to fish a rod that’s capable of landing the big boys.
  4. Fish flesh.  Our rivers get choked with salmon flesh, so our trout love eating salmon flesh.  Even in the early season when you don’t yet see rotting salmon everywhere, don’t overlook your flesh flies.  In small water and big water, early season and late season, good conditions and bad conditions, flesh flies are some of our most consistent producers.
  5. Fish the couch water.  That soft water on an inside bend is often overlooked, and often the home of Big Jerry.  Fish it.

Have you spent some time fishing for trout in Western Alaska?  Got some more ways to catch more trout?  Leave us a comment and share the love!

More Ways to Catch More Fish (or Not)

Top Trout Fishing Posts of 2010

Man, what a year of posts about trout.
Man, what a year of posts about trout.

We’re nearing the end of 2010, so as dutiful members of the media we figured it was time to run a series of posts looking back on some highlights of the year.  Since it’s really all about the fish, we decided to group these little roundups by type of finned friend.

The formula is pretty simple.  We pick a category (e.g. “Trout Fishing”).  We figure out which 10 posts in the category got viewed the most during 2010.  We list them for your pleasure, just in case you missed any of the highlights along the way.

So here we go: our 10 posts about trout fishing that got viewed the most in 2010.

  1. Bead Fishing for Rainbow Trout – Beads work well for trout in Alaska.  Read all about it here.
  2. What is This Fish? – Garrett caught a good one in Chile.  Depending on your vote, it might not belong in this list.
  3. Mend Less. – Don’t get too fine when you’re fishing the Kanektok.
  4. Mousing for Rainbows – 5 Tips – Just what it says.
  5. Mr. Hankey – A Deneki-alumnus-designed mouse pattern.
  6. Secrets of the Flesh Fly – What you might not know about what rails lower river rainbows.
  7. Spey Fishing for Trout – Tactics – You’ve tried it, right?  Here are some tactics to use.
  8. Awesome Brown Trout – Just a picture of a really cool fish.
  9. Streamer Fishing with Bass Weights – We do it in Chile.  It’s not pretty but it works real good.
  10. Trevor Covich’s Streamer Rig – He’s a guide prodigy in Alaska and Chile, and he fishes streamers well.

Next up, next week: our top bonefishing posts of 2010.

More Roundups

Flesh Flies and Snags

As if you needed another reason.
As if you needed another reason.

Yet another reason why you should fish your flesh fly around snags when you’re targeting rainbow trout in Western Alaska – illustrated in one simple photo.

See the snag?  See the dead salmon on the snag?  See why rainbow trout near that snag might be looking for salmon flesh?

Thought so.

More on Rainbow Trout