by Michael Bales – Head Guide for Alaska Rainbow Lodge
Here’s a fishing story for you…Long term customer Michael and I were scheduled to be fishing Lower Talarik Creek in search of trophy rainbow trout, preferably in the 30 inch class. This a a fish that most anglers simply dream about, and can only be found in very few places on earth, Bristol Bay – and more specifically the Iliamna drainage – is one of those places. We had a beautiful sunrise for our departure, the winds were light and the sky had that familiar grey overcast that we usually see in the fall here on the Kvichak river.
After spending three days catching numerous rainbow trout up 29 inches, it seemed that it was not going to happen for Michael this year.
Several 28 & 29 inch fish, but No thirty incher.
A fresh pod of silvers were in a small tailout on the creek with what appeared to be some large rainbow trout hanging around them anticipating the eggs that the Coho salmon drop during the spawning process.
Michael made several casts to the area where the fish were holding and then it happened…the line came tight on the swing, michael raised the rod and a glorious chrome trout came blasting out of the water, jumping five feet in the air as his reel’s drag began to scream, the fish was headed downstream at a blistering pace and was already 50 yards deep into the backing of his Billy Pate reel as the fly line sliced through the water like a laser.
The fight had begun, several more jumps like a tarpon who was just stung by the bite of the fly and he raced back upstream, seemingly faster than the first run. Michael began stripping in line furiously and we both realized that this might be the one. One more turn and he was headed to Lake Iliamna jumping like crazy, which we both knew could shake the hook and it would be over. Barbless hooks have been know to release a fish that hot that jumped this often during the battle.
Finally after about 10 minutes, with a little more coaching and expert rod work, we pulled the fish into shore at the grassy edge of the Talarik. Both of our hearts were racing as we looked upon this glorious specimen. Surely that fish is 30 inches I said, but just to be safe we made a few quick measurements with the tape. The fish taped in at just over 30 inches and had an 18 inch girth, roughly 15 pounds of pure Iliamna Chrome! An amazing fish landed on 10 lb. flourcarbon tippet!!
We released the fish quickly in the clear waters of the Talarik and watched mesmorized and it swam away gracefully as if nothing ever happened. For both angler and guide, this was a special moment. We shook hands, smiled, then laughed and reflected on the battle, we were grateful to have been a part of the amazing experience.
Now here’s where the story gets interesting….
Although it’s not his favorite method in the wind Lower Talarik is known for, we decided to switch from swinging flies and set up an indicator rod with a bead rig and fish the same area hoping for another trout. The silvers were still there, surely there would be another fish hungrily waiting? I proceeded to do a demonstration cast of how we would fish this new rig and made a cast, showing him how a stack mend was necessary given the currents that were in the tailout. At that exact moment, a group of silver salmon exploded and one of them attacked the indicator as it went under water, presumably from one of the Silver salmon that were frothing about.
In a reaction I pulled the line from the mass of silvers and the line snapped right above the indicator. Guide error…After a bit of chuckling and comments something to the effect of I’m glad it was you not me by Michael, we took the leech rod back out as I retied the Indicator rig watching the whole time as our first rig bobbed amongst the spawning cohos. Michael suggested a cast with the streamer to retrieve the rig – As it turns out, this was a great idea, I would have the whole rig and with a quick inspection, addition of tippet, and a blood know or two, we’d be back in business.
One accurate cast was all it took to hook the floating corkie, and just as Michael started stripping the broken gear our way, it took off like a missile towards the lake. We had just witnessed this only moments before and couldn’t believe our eyes as another GIANT trout bolted into the air, shaking its head violently as it vaulted three more times with each jump getting higher in the air, three feet, four feet, five feet, with the drag howling deep into his backing and the fly line again making that slicing sound as the fish raced.
After another blistering run towards “The Rock” it turned towards Lake Iliamna and in the blink of an eye, it steamed downriver towards Lake Iliamna forcing Michael and I to chase it down some fifty yards beofre slowing him down, after all of this, a few more short runs, another roll, we were finally Awestruck as the fish was taken to hand and put to the tape!! 30 plus inches with a 19 inch girth It was released and swam away casually back into the water…Another 30 inch plus fish!! Two in the same day…One in a lifetime is impressive, but two in one day? Amazing!!
After a bit of congratulations and some laughing and smiling, we just looked at each other and said “Who Caught that fish??”…and went back to fishing……