by Michael Bales, Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge
Today, we’re fishing the upper Kvichak River in search of the legendary 30-inch rainbow trout. The Alaska Rainbow Lodge is famous for these fish. You’ve heard about them, seen the pictures, read the magazine stories – and now, it’s your turn.
We board the Wooldridge jet boat at 8:00 a.m. This is a fast and comfortable jet boat powered by a 330-horsepower Corvette engine. We make the run up the Kvichak to the Kaskanak Braids, just below Lake Illiamna, in about 40 minutes. The lodge has several small jet boats stashed on a tributary close to these magic waters. On arrival, two fishermen and one guide jump in the small boats, and we’re off to fish and explore the Kaskanak Braids.
The massive sockeye and silver salmon spawns of the Kvichak lure ancient rainbows out of the depths of Lake Illiamna. Trout fishing up here is unlike any trout fishing on Earth. Here, the rainbow trout are the strongest, most beautiful and most acrobatic fish on the planet. And the chance to catch one of these 30-inch (plus) bows is excellent. Landing one is the trick.
There are many ways to fish these waters. Some wade and swing leaches with Spey rods to cover lots of big water and deep pools. Some drift the edges, casting bead patterns to hungry trout feeding in salmon beds. And some will wade the quieter tributaries, targeting deep, egg-rich channels with the hope of sight casting to a lurking trophy.
Our choice is to drift the edges over known salmon spawning grounds. Our guide is excellent at getting us into perfect casting positions in this fast water. In just a few casts, we’re on the fish. We land one nice silver salmon and one 22-inch bow. It’s a great start to the day. We motor back up to drift this same stretch again. We catch two more silvers then bounce back up and catch a grayling and another small trout.
Where are the big girls? Where are the chrome-bright, hard-fighting monsters today? As we drift downstream, our guide has just re-rigged your line and chunked it in the water. You’re about to make a cast and the line goes tight. It must have snagged on a branch?
Then the drag starts to whine. Fish on! The instant deep jerk of the rod tells you it’s big. And it’s making one insane run upstream. Then it explodes into the air. You were sure it was a salmon but the guide yells it’s a huge trout. This is it! This is why we came to Alaska Rainbow Lodge.
The fish runs everywhere trying to escape. After 10 minutes and half a dozen spectacular leaps, our guide nets the beauty. She’s 29 ½ inches. The biggest, most beautiful and fattest trout you’ve ever seen, much less landed.
This has all happened before 10:30 a.m.
The pictures are priceless. Being in Alaska on the Kaskanak Braids with some of your best friends and business associates is priceless.
That was the biggest fish anyone caught that day. The lodge was buzzing after seeing the pictures. Guides boldly declared that bigger fish will be caught, and wagers were made by the most robust.
That picture hangs on your wall today. It reminds you that it’s time to book a week at the lodge for the coming season. And this year, you will join the 30-inch club. Yes, you will join that club.