What’s better than landing a fat, wild, Naknek rainbow trout on a surface fly? Landing TWO fat, wild, Nanek rainbow trout on a surface fly.
Deneki’s own Mike Sanders closes out our 2016 season at Rapids Camp Lodge with a lesson on why it’s a good idea to fish the Naknek River in the fall.
Big, we mean BIG wild Alaskan rainbow trout. Wow.
Nice fish, Mike!
More from Rapids Camp Lodge
As a full service fly-out operation, at Rapids Camp Lodge we’re able to target trout in a bunch of really cool, dynamic fisheries around Bristol Bay. However, we’re extremely fortunate to be located on the banks of the Naknek River, home to some of the baddest rainbow trout in Alaska, making for one heck of a home river!
Naknek rainbows aren’t your average rainbow trout and here’s why.
- You Can Catch Them in a Bunch of Interesting Ways. Chasing pods of smolt-busting rainbows with floating smolt patterns and/or poppers, or swinging flies on small spey or switch rods in traditional steelhead fashion are two of our favorite (and even producive) ways to target trout on the Naknek, and we’re able to do a lot of it!
- They Approach Sizes That Rival Some Steelhead. Each year the Naknek is known for producing some of the largest rainbow trout throughout Alaska, some reaching sizes that leave anglers scratching their head asking; “Are you sure there aren’t any steelhead in here?”
- They Fight Really Hard. Hefty fish and swift current make up the recipe for one heck of a fight when hooking a Naknek rainbow. They fight long and hard, and we like it that way.
Sound like a good time? Drop us a line for more information!
More on Rainbow Trout at Rapids Camp
We’re really lucky to witness a pretty spectacular phenomenon each season on the Naknek River – Home to our Rapids Camp Lodge Operation. Each spring, salmon smolt from the millions of salmon that have spawned throughout the Naknek River system make their way towards the ocean. Large, hungry, rainbow trout await the migration each year creating a massive feeding frenzy known by the initiated as the annual ‘Smolt Bust.’
As predatory rainbows wreak havoc on these schools of snack sized salmon smolt, the smolt are often herded to the surface creating the ‘bust’ favored by both anglers and birds alike. This makes for some pretty epic topwater action, and our own Dan Herrig showed us a clever way to target these glutinous trout using standard foam popper bodies. Here’s how..
- Thread a Rainy’s foam popper head onto your leader (white or green is best).
- Tie on a simple unweighted streamer pattern in typical salmon ‘smolty’ colors – Whites, pearls, grays, etc. According to Dan, simple is best here, even so much as only a few wraps of white crosscurrent bunny strip.
- Slide the popper head down to the fly, nesting it over the eye of the hook.
- Find the bust, make a ruckus on the surface (imitating a panicked smolt), and hold on!
More from the Naknek
A While back, we told you why many of our guides actually prefer 7-weight rods when targeting big Alaskan rainbow trout. Today, our own Dan Herrig put together a great write-up on his weapon of choice (that’s right, a 7-weight) when fishing for huge rainbow trout during the annual ‘Smolt Bust’ on the Naknek River, home to our Rapids Camp Lodge operation.
“790-4” – A Story from the Naknek
Yes the birds are working, they have been for the entire afternoon. I have been watching them. Its time. Boat ride is quick, but the anchor position decision is long. What line should I take? Its evening so not a lot of time to explore. How about river right along the flats where the channel is tight to the shoals.
No, the water isn’t salty or brackish, it’s a chokepoint for migrating smolt in a large river that empties a lake. The smolt rest in the shallows and feel safe, more daring young ones brave the deep channel. Oh, the poor baby salmon. Millions of them trying to make their way to the ocean and begin the cycle their ancestors successfully accomplished.
The rod doesn’t know its mission, only I do. But like a good soldier, it sits at the ready. An Outward Bound Short with heavily tapered leader is responsible for the delivery of a 2” Clouser style pattern. The interchangeable foam popper head jammed over the eye of the fly is like a dinner bell at a western cattle ranch. There is a slight downstream breeze. No problem, even with the obtrusive foam head.
I sit and wait, a bust goes off across river. Way too far. 100 yards, I’ll wait. As I’m watching, I hear behind me the telltale surface commotion. Turning around it’s too late. The birds have migrated upstream focused on another school of prey. I’ve got some time. My thoughts migrate towards the rod, the soldier. The graphite glows through epoxy, the cork grips me instead of the converse. A loud “Doong” wakes me from my temporary focus. Only a bloodthirsty Alaskan rainbow would run itself into an aluminum boat while trying to fulfill its bloodlust for a salmon smolt. Another opportunity missed.
The birds are closer, terns and gulls diving after smolt that are trying to escape the rainbows from below. Its go time. 80’ of new flyline lying on the deck. No problem. The birds are getting closer. The boils follow. One false cast, two, three. Line zips through the guides like a New York subway. Mr. Popper lands, chug, chug, chug.. SLAM. The line goes taught, heart rate rises with the rod tip. Slack, no fish. Mr. Rainbow and Mr. Popper just had a brief encounter. Three seconds later after it is all said and done, the school has moved on. I’m done for the night. Time to get ready for the guests the following morning.
The rod did its job, the fly did its job, the fish did its job. No complaints. The bouncy ride back to the dock has the rod wagging it’s tip like a good spaniel’s tail after a hard day afield. Everybody feels complete.
The 790-4 I could describe in many ways. Tight, specific, forgiving, determined, soulful. When a delivery needs to happen within close tolerances I would not have any other wingman flying with me.
More on Naknek Trout
Congrats to our own Bryan Burke for landing this monster of a rainbow trout from the Naknek River this fall!
The Naknek River, home of our Rapids Camp Lodge operation, has been named the best trophy rainbow trout river in all of Alaska, and each fall more 30+ inch trout are landed than at any other point during the season.
Low pressure, huge trout, and the best time of year to target trophy rainbows on the swing.. Fall fishing on the Naknek is a no brainer! Interested in learning more about the Fall Naknek fishery? Drop us a line!
Good work Bryan, now get back to work!
More on Naknek Trout Fishing
Over the years countless stories, magazine articles and videos have chronicled the tremendous rainbow trout produced by the Naknek Lake system. Many of the rainbows hooked over 30” aren’t landed due to their sheer tenacity in the 6 plus knots of current. They will put to the test any angler’s gear and abilities on a daily basis – but with dedication and confidence, bringing that trout of a lifetime to hand can become reality on any given cast.
Our new addition to the Deneki family, Rapids Camp Lodge is strategically located at the bottom of the “rapids” on the Naknek River. Though known for its unmatched fly-out program, the home water advantage is key. Every year RCL gives out dozens of 30”+ pins to guests who accomplish the feat…accompanied that evening by champagne toasts and the guide’s comical twist on the battle that ensued!
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