The Kenai River is most famous for its enormous salmon runs. Every single season literally millions of salmon enter the river at it’s mouth and invade the 80+ mile system of the Kenai River drainage. When millions of salmon flood the river, predictably thousands of anglers are there waiting for them. During the early and mid-summer months the banks are littered with anglers, and boats race up and down the emerald-green waterway in search of the perfect river real estate where chrome bright salmon can be intercepted. It’s a fun and frantic exercise that lasts a couple months or so, but then sometime in the late part of the summer the river gradually transitions from the hustle & bustle atmosphere to a more laid-back vibe created by the fall.
The fall is when the millions of salmon, slightly picked-through by the army of anglers who have since moved on, begin the spawning process. It’s the spawning process, the end of the salmon’s life cycle, that triggers big rainbow trout to begin feeding aggressively. The big trout have been in the river the whole time, hiding in the depths like ghosts and feeding only opportunistically, rarely encountered by anglers. But now these trout become extremely vulnerable, and consequently it’s perfect timing for a trout bum armed with a fly or spin rod to try their luck.
The tackle is pretty simple, typically a bead rigged above a hook and under a float, but of course it’s the tiny details that make all the difference. Bead size, color, hook size, leader length, weight, presentation, and so much more determines your level of success. Hiring a guide that has most of this figured out already is a game-changer for the vast majority of anglers that don’t have the time to be on the water regularly, staying tuned in with all the factors and patterns that change weekly, or even daily. Both fly rods and spin rods can be used effectively to target Kenai River trout, so choose your weapon, but whichever method you employ it needs to be rigged properly. A 7 or 8 weight fly rod with a floating line is your best bet if fly fishing; the most common rig being a 9-12 foot leader with an indicator up top and 10-12 lb. fluorocarbon tippet at the bottom. Warning: do not show up to the party with a 5 weight!. If you’re looking to spin fish, then a rod on the longer side rated to 17lb test and rigged with 20lb braided line is a good choice for a spin/float rod. The leader is similar to that of a fly fishing system, but a bobber (sliding or fixed) will be your indicator.
Do big trout get caught during mid-summer? Yes! But for an angler looking to increase his or her odds at catching big trout and/or lots of trout, then the fall is definitely the way to go. Mid-August kicks off the beginning of the king salmon spawn, followed shortly by the sockeye and pink salmon spawn throughout September and into October. The trout are on the bite as long as there are salmon eggs in the water, and they also eat salmon flesh throughout the spawn and after. Fishing usually stays great as long as you can stand the weather. If you’re on a trout mission, anytime during the month of September puts you in the middle of the action. Highly recommended!
Simply saying that you’re going trout fishing on the Kenai River isn’t being specific enough. Remember, it’s a large system, and the trout follow the salmon patterns. Sometimes the fishing is best on the upper stretch, other times the middle section of the river is the hot-spot, and even the lower river can catch fire if the conditions are right. We will put you in position to have high success based on the run timing, current river conditions, and recent fishing trends. Having a versatile guide that is capable of fishing multiple stretches with expertise can be highly beneficial as well.
The leaders we use on the Kenai are long and have lots of junk attached (i.e. split shots, beads, indicator, etc.) so they don’t cast as nicely as a dry fly would, for example. So practicing a beautiful fly cast in your back yard won’t help you much up here. The casting technique we employ is a bit different, and our guides are experts at helping you get the job done. The good news is that you don’t have to cast far, and even a beginner that shows up with no casting experience at all can still be successful and catch plenty of trout! We’ll provide all the fishing gear for you, just bring some warm clothes and a good rain jacked, just in case.
Rainbow trout are a catch & release species, which is probably one reason why our fishery remains so great despite its relative easy access. If you want to catch trout but also want to bring home fish, we got you covered! The fall season (trout season) is also silver salmon season. We offer silver/trout combo trips that allow you to spend half the day fishing for/harvesting salmon, and half the day fishing for/releasing rainbow trout. WIN-WIN!