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.