FLY FISHING: The Kenai River Canyon
A Float Trip down through the Kenai River Canyon is an unforgettable experience. Flowing through the Andy Simmons' Wilderness Area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge; this beautiful stretch of water drains into Skilak Lake, where an hour's ride delivers us to the boat ramp at the end of the day. It is difficult to find better BIG trout fishing in Alaska than the Upper Kenai River, fly fishing for trophy sized rainbows and Dolly Vardon. Late August and September these fish gather to feed and fatten up for winter on the spawn of hundreds of thousands of sockeye salmon.
Managed as a trophy class fishery by the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and for an esthetic wilderness experience by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this mostly catch and release fishery allows only the use of single hook artificial lures. Use of a motor is not allowed on the upper Kenai River.
Designed with stand up fly casters in mind, the wide bodied WILLIE drift boat is a very stable platform. Fly fishers who wish to can secure the boat exclusive of other casters. Ask about this special service.
We welcome anglers bringing their own fly gear, most folks prefer to, but we have 9 foot 8 weight St Croix rods with Lamson reels with plenty of backing and floating lines for strike indicator fishing for trout and char. If you do bring your own tackle lighter than 6 weight is not advised and even a 6 wt will be inadequate for the incidental sockeye salmon and the larger trout and char found in the Kenai and Kasilof. We also have some waders (Simms, Cabelas, and others) with common size Caddis boots for men and women to use when fishing with us. Be advised felt soles on wading shoes is illegal in Alaska's fresh waters by order of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.
Randa's Guide Service LTD has been making the 'canyon' our trout float trip of choice for over 30 years, fishing the river's boils, eddies, fast runs and flat braid channels near the lake provide a variety of trout habitat and they can grow to monster size. The Alaska State Rainbow trout record was set here near RM 65 in 1978 with a 27.75 pound giant Rainbow trout which held that record until it was beaten in the 1980s by a 44 pound anadromous Rainbow trout (Steelhead) caught near Juneau.
SPEY FISHING: Using Two Hands
Spey fishing using specially constructed flies presented swung across and down on water/rivers where fish hold has been around for a long time. In the late 1800s in Scotland it evolved to using both hands to handle a long rod while casting distances on large rivers to Atlantic Salmon. It gets its name from the river Spey. Atlantic salmon was the species of fish the anglers were pursuing back then but over time it has become accepted that the Pacific salmons would take a swung fly presented properly; Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum will all respond to the technique but the species of choice for most anglers is the anadromous rainbow trout called steelhead.
I first was exposed to Spey technique in the late 1960s when fishing on the Deschutes River in Oregon. Greased line (floating line) swinging to summer steelhead was something I learned to do and became very engaged with. Swinging a surface fly over summer run steelhead trout is absolutely the most fun one can have standing up. It is said that a summer run rainbow responds very similarly to the Atlantic salmon when presented a waking surface fly. The special surge of energy one experiences when a big trout choses to play is exhilarating.
I learned about the long Spey rod or two handed rod after I moved to Alaska in the mid 1970s and have again become engaged with this art of casting here on the Kenai in what some would call my dotage. Using sinking tips and specially designed lines to cast distance and get down to the fish is something I would do by choice for my own enjoyment whatever the conditions. Over the years I have enjoyed the companionship and camaraderie of the folks at Mossy's Fly Shop in Anchorage, the friendly atmosphere and the knowledgeable employees found there make it the best in Alaska. Two Hand Alaska is a phrase first coined there by Spey fishing fanatics that own and frequent the shop. Stop in and see for yourself when passing thru Anchorage on the way to your destination fishing waters, they have excellent up to date, often first hand, information they are happy to share.
We can provide tackle and beginning instruction for those anglers wishing to try, or engage their own obsession for this sporting endeavor. We have Echo rods and reels with AirFlow lines and custom tied flies for clients to entice a big rainbow be it anadromous or resident. We also have brands such as Sage Method Spey rods, and Beulah long rods, and Hatch reels. Or bring your own. Way fun!
THINGS TO CONSIDER: Weather, Gear, Etc.
No matter what time of the year, we can go through all kinds of seasons on any given day; sun, clouds, rain, cold and hot. It's best to be prepared as this will make your experience much more comfortable. Layers are best as you can always put more on or just shed layers as necessary to accommodate the relative weather. There is no such thing as bad weather....just bad clothing.
NEXT TO SKIN- The inner layer is what we think of as the base layer, long underwear or "next to skin" layer, Capilene, polypropylene any other thin material that wicks moisture away from your skin. Even on hot days, you can wear this instead of a cotton T-shirt as it drys much quicker. The only drawback is that some of these materials also absorb odor, so you might consider buying new stuff before coming up. Although, there are merino wool based layers that are do not dock odors. Like a lot of other things, cheap is cheap. Good clothing will go a long way, and can make a bad weather day into a great trip.
The MIDDLE INSULATING layer could be expedition-weight long underwear, a fleece jacket, or even a sweater. Synthetic are preferred versus down materials as they tend to retain heat better even when wet. Although many manufacturers now produce a treated down that retains heat even when wet.
RAIN GEAR and/or waterproof shells as the outer layer is the one you really need to get right. Rain gear in itself will make your day on a rainy day will make your day much better. If you opt for a rain proof shell, get a shell that's waterproof (not just water resistant) and breathable to keep the wind off and dry when it's raining. Brand doesn’t matter matters much, but an outer shell made of Gore-Tex® material (including a hood) will keep you dry and happy even on super wet days, making your trip much more enjoyable.
Blocking the sun is important. Bring a lightweight, brimmed hat for sun and rain, sunglasses preferably with polarized lenses (keeps the glare off better), and sunscreen. In Alaska the sun can be intense and with the long summer days, there can be twice as many hours of daylight.
Even on a warm summer day, it can get pretty chilly. While you won’t need a parka or anything winter-weight, a pair of thin gloves will be worthwhile investment.