Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why quality boats and gear really matter

March 1, 2015

A long time ago a mentor of ours talked about the “Wow Factor”.  The “Wow Factor” in his mind was what he wanted his clients to think, say, and feel as they interacted with his business for the first time.  In the guide world having your guest get into your boat and say “wow” is important, equally important is the reaction you receive when handing out rod and reel set ups.  Quality gear certainly helps set the tone for the day, and can help put the odds in your favor during clutch situations.


The Kenai River has many access points, great fishing, and with that plenty of boat traffic.  Launches are a busy place in the mornings and afternoons as guides and clients meet and bid farewell.  During this high traffic time many guests are actively comparing and contrasting the different types and quality of guide watercraft, and it makes perfect sense.

Guides can’t control the weather or behavior of the fish, but they can control the environment in which they guide out of.  A clean, well cared for boat, is essential for setting the stage for a day on the water.  It’s fair to say that most folks would prefer to hop into the “nice” boat vs. the old beat up one. 

Layout is important as well.  A boat should be designed for the type of species you are targeting.  It should be easy to move around and not restrictive.  This is especially important once that “big one” is hooked and an angler needs to maneuver around the boat and avoid tangling with other anglers.

Presentation is key to catching fish.  Different hull designs allow for different levels of handling ease and efficiencies in drift management.  Once again boats that are designed to target a certain species and drift style will pay off dividends in the long run.

Willie Classic with Mercury Motor


The expression that a client gives immediately after placing a top end Sage or GLoomis rod in their hand is priceless, once again quality and commitment to your guests experience is reaffirmed with top of the line gear.

Besides name notoriety the performance quality gear gives is important.  Rod systems that are designed for the target species and presentation style put the odds for success in your favor.  The right set up allows for giving the best presentation to hook the fish you are after and stacks the odds in your favor when its time to do battle.

One item that can easily be over looked but is just as important as a quality rod system is a net.   Stepping to the plate with a net that is not designed for the target species can lead to disaster and harm the fish.  If you are catch and releasing a rubber net is a must.  Rubber nets allow for ease when working with the fish, allow the fish to rest, and does no damage to the protecting slime on the fish.  The slime protects the fish from infection,  plastic/nylon nets often remove slime from the fish leaving it prone to infection in the near future.

Having the appropriate size net is huge as well.  For the Kenai River, we go with the theory, bigger is better.

Sage fly rods laying on back of Willie Classic

Tying it together

If you are planning your first or next fishing trip consider asking the outfitter about the types of boats/gear they use and the condition of the gear.   This is definitely a sleeper point that can get forgotten about when researching and booking a trip.  

As mentioned above, quality watercraft and gear play an important role in the performance and outcome of your day, and knowing the quality of the gear should be towards the top of your question list when planning a trip with an outfitter. 

Anglers doubled up on Kenai Rainbow Trout

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Super September 2014

For our blog on September Rainbow Trout on the Kenai River 2014 please follow this link

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 1 2014
Getting into the Swing of Things
An inspirational essay on the joys of catching Kenai River Rainbow Trout on Streamers

Feeling a Kenai Rainbow Trout crush a streamer mid swing is arguably one of the most exciting ways to hook one of these mythical fish.  There are a couple times during the summer and fall when streamers out perform bead and flesh patterns.  This is a nice switch from the standard dead-drift presentation most commonly used.

Mid June – July

From the Trout opener on June 11 thru July smolt, leech, and sculpin patterns can add a nice change from the standard dead drift. Swinging through deep holding pockets will put your streamer in the zone for battle with super charged chrome Trout. 

A variety of size and color patterns should live in your fly box.  Over the years more and more anglers have been fishing the early season Rainbow bite.  This increased pressure has educated the Trout population.  Olive, brown, and black patterns ranging in size from 2” – 5” are a must to keep up with the constantly changing minds of big Rainbow Trout.

More food for thought……a small quiver of various sink tip lines help get that perfect swing at the desired depth, but,  sometimes “swinging” a streamer under an indicator will out fish a traditional sink tip set up.

A quick note for those that will be fishing  the opener (June 11) into early July.  Don’t target the fish sitting in the shallows!  These guys are working hard to make more Rainbow Trout so we have awesome fishing for years to come.  Not only does it disrupt them from spawing, Trout during this time are  under tremendous stress and are not eating.  There is a great chance that a spawning fish will not live after it is released due to exhaustion.  So please try to fish in deep holing water and main channel.  If you do hook a dark (spawning fish)  bring it in immediately and don’t take it out of the water for a photo try to get it released without consuming too much of its energy.

Late Fall

Once the Kenai drops and the fish start to pocket up to eat as much as possible before winter is another great time to swing streamers.  Do to the low water, there are many great gravel bars and wading spots.  Swing during this time of year can lead to an encounter with a giant Keani Bow.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Photogenic Rainbow Trout

We have written many articles about fishing the Kenai River, how to catch Rainbow Trout, and the why’s and where’s. The one thing we haven’t covered, and equally as important as catching fish, is how to properly photo and release the fish.

Getting a great photo of that beautiful Kenai River Rainbow starts with a good net. Most serious Trout anglers use a rubber net, the thick rubber holds it’s shape while the fish is in it, doesn’t rip the slime off the fish, and allows for easy working with the fish. The mesh, or rubber coated mesh nets do a great job of scaring the Trout, and rip the slime off, this is bad, the slime on a fish protects the fish from infections.

Now that you have successfully put a beautiful Rainbow Trout in rubber net, what next? A round of high fives is in order, then its decision making time. Do you want to go to shore with the fish? Do you want to measure the fish? How is the fish doing?

The easiest place to work with a photo fish is from the shore in slow to stagnant water. If you are on the Middle Kenai odds are you caught the fish from a boat in some form of moving water. Getting the fish safely to shore for that photo can be tricky.

1. Once the fish is in the net see how the fish is doing. If it was a long fight the fish is probably tired, let the fish hangout in the net for a bit before you handle it or head for the shore.

2. Figure out a good shore spot to work on the fish. Slower the water the better. If at any time you see the fish is pinned to a side of the net due to water current or moving the fish from main river to shore, stop! This is causing harm to the fish. Find slower water and or move to shore at a slower speed.
3. Plan where you want to go to shore, and take your time getting there. We have seen people net fish, then lift the net out of the water and quickly run to a shore spot – not cool. If the fish is not in the water it cannot breathe if the fish is pinned to the side of the net, it cannot breathe.

Here are a few tips for those that photo from the boat:

1. Always be aware of your surroundings and where your boat is floating. Photoing a fish from a moving boat can be dangerous if someone is not watching where the boat is drifting at all times.

2. Never bring a fish into the boat for photos or measuring ever. We have a rule for our boats that no Rainbow Trout or any fish that is going to be released cannot come across the gunnel.

Ok, now you have the fish in a safe, controlled environment the next move is to get an awesome photo and some measurements for accurate bragging rights. The school of hard knocks taught us that it is better to get a photo than a measurement first. Sometimes fish find their way back into the water sooner than we would like.

When preparing to get a photo orientate yourself so the sun or best light source is on you, not behind you. Now grab a hold of the fish, with the fish still in the water communicate with the cameraperson to make sure they are ready. If all parties are ready do a three count, 1,2,3 lift the fish get a quick photo then put the fish back in the net in the water. While the fish is resting check to see how good the photo is. Repeat this process for every photo.

Remember that you put a lot of time and effort into catching a great fish; make sure you put the same effort into keeping the fish safe and healthy while you get your photos and measurements.

Once you get your photos its time to get a length and a girth. The girth can be done with a soft tape with the fish in the net, in the water. For the length we recommend getting a dun rite fish measuring board or something equivalent. Put the dun rite in the water and carefully slide the fish on the board for the measurement.

Now that the fish is in the water on the board releasing is easy. Hold the fish by the tail and help it to get reoriented. Soon as the fish is ready it should take off.

Catching a “photo” fish is an addictive thrill, there is nothing better than getting a great photo to capture the moment and share the memory. But it is our responsibly to take as much time and care to release the fish and preserve the resource as necessary. Be a role model on the water.

Monday, February 17, 2014

 It’s a Pink Year!

Happy 2014! Weeeeeeeeeeee! Why are we sooooo excited? Well, even number years on the Kenai River = Pink Salmon show up and spawn! You may find yourself thinking that Salmon show up and spawn every year, what’s so special about Pink Salmon?

We love them!

It’s true! When the Pinks return to the Kenai River they come with an army, 1million is not a huge return! How this relates to Rainbow Trout is a ton of food for them to get fat and happy. With the King Salmon returns being bleak, an additional food source is quite welcomed by Kenai River Trout.

Usually our biggest Rainbows come on Pink years, it seems the big Bo’s are willing to hang out longer in the river due to the extra easy food source. By early fall most Trout are already showing some signs of obesity. This fattening trend contiues through the fall making for exceptional fishing.

If you have been thinking about fishing the Kenai River for Rainbow Trout, this year would be a good one. The window of awesome will start mid/late August and run into October. Plenty of time for greatness! Hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

September Fly Fishing Kenai River, Alaska

The first week of September started off with a bang, our biggest fish of the season came during this time. This can be attributed to the beginning of the Red Salmon spawn and the end of the King Salmon spawn. Water levels were still way above average keeping Rainbows in small pockets, but those pockets were awesome.


At this point we were fishing 20 miles of river! Trout were keying in on egg patterns, fresh, old, and sizes 7mm – 12mm were all fair game. Talk about an information overload!

Typically with a “Sockeye year” the majority of productive water consists in the first five miles below Skilak Lake. One advantage of high water during this time was spreading out the food source, resulting in spreading out the fish. Consolidated food equals consolidated fish, naturally making catching Rainbow Trout easier. This is good right? In some cases yes, but on the World Famous Kenai River this means consolidated angling pressure. So long story short the high water made it possible for the creative angler to avoid congested angling pressure to some degree.

For the second half of September our efforts became concentrated in the top few miles below Skilak Lake. Knowing the bite timing and staying on top of which bead at which minute gave us some great fishing. Many mid to high 20” fish were caught. Same as always, being creative and running a little different program than most gave us an edge on netting some Kenai River beauties.

Luckily for us when the afternoon bite turned on most people were not around for it! Spotty bite fluxes kept many anglers moving around to find fish, the fact is the fish were always there, but became ultra sensitive to boat pressure. Once the bite really died it was time to stay persistent and keeping moving around the productive lines because it was bound to turn on. Typically 20 minutes after boats left the Trout mysteriously began to party.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

August 15 - 31

Non Stop Silvers

The best run of early Kenai River Silver Salmon in years showed no sign of slowing down until the last few days of August, even then we still found them, but it just took  a little longer.  Backtrolling sardine wrapped plugs seemed to be the most effective way to bring Silvers in,  casting spinners, and fly fishing also produced results. 

When is the best time for Silvers?

Great question.  August 10thish seems to be when the party gets started and lasts typically through  the end of August (Remember that Salmon runs are very similar to a bell curve).   September is the same typically by the 10th the success level is pretty good.

Two happy Drift Away clients holding a limit of Kenai River Silver Salmon 
Rainbow Trout

The second half of August started to warm up as the King Salmon began spawning.  Above average water levels, and a small King return kept the guides of Drift Away constantly moving to stay on the Rainbow Trout, however, some great fish were caught.  Between the big fish a steady supply of 20”– 24” Trout kept guest smiling.  It seems that the mid range Rainbow Trout fight sooooo hard, often we think that a 10lb rainbow is on until it jumps.  These are some of our favorite fish due to their tenacity!

Guide Nigel Fox and client holding a Trophy Kenai River Rainbow Trout