USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 44.24 ° F
  • Flow: 7020 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.91 ft

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 9440 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.15 ft

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 49.82 ° F
  • Flow: 10100 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 6.46 ft

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 54.5 ° F
  • Flow: 143 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.40 ft
Ask About Fly Fishing

Wild Rainbows and The Dark Side


Ferns big enough to hide bears.

Well, Lance and I finally found one. One of those elusive streams in south central Alaska where rainbows live unmolested by the hordes of seasonal anglers chasing salmon, thrashing the water into froth. Just us, wild fish, and quiet. OK, there were tons of mosquitoes and flies, and lots of bear sign as well. But most of the bear scat was oldish and we didn’t run into to one, so bears don’t count this time. And if you don’t expect mosquitoes; you’re not from around here. Oh, did I mention that it almost killed us to get there. (Well maybe not kill, but severely hurt at a minimum.)

I’m not going to mention any names or directions, so you can stop hunting for your pencil and paper. This was a very small stream and will not withstand much fishing pressure. We weren’t the first ones there and I doubt if we’ll be the last. Lance remembered hearing about this place years ago when he was doing the Fishing Report at Channel 13, for those of you that have been around awhile. It’s not unknown, just off the beaten path.


Close to the end of our trek.

Here’s what I will tell you: we had to be on the road by 4:30AM to catch a boat that dropped us off, then an hour hike up through river banks thick with ferns and grass over our heads, to a hill that was almost straight up (if you ask Lance he’ll tell you it was straight up), for another hour hike through the woods on a trail small enough that we lost it a couple of times, only to then bushwhack another 20 minutes down and over to the stream. All on the promise (word of a guide) that there would be fish. It wasn’t where we had planned to fish that day, it was just where we ended up.

We were over dressed, under-watered, hot, sweaty, and bug bitten by the time we reached a stream that we initially thought was way too small and skinny for fish of any size or quantity. Lance had brought a 6wt and I had carried a 7wt thinking that we were going to be on heavier water with a chance for salmon this day. Great, we thought, we’re way over gunned. Turns out; not by much. I’ll probably take my 6wt next time.


Happy Camper Lance

While we were standing streamside waiting for our body temperatures to get down somewhere close to normal, we re-thought our earlier fly selection. I shortened my leader, lightened the tippet and went with a larger fry pattern with a very small pink bead head. Lance decided on a pegged Hevi-Bead with a bunny tag fly from a Select-a-Bead. I headed down from where we were while Lance jumped one bend upstream. We hooked up about twenty minutes later and compared notes. I had lost a couple small fish and landed one about 11 or 12”, not bad for me, given the water; Lance had done much better. He had hit on 10 or 12 fish, the biggest about 15”. The fish were jumping all over his setup. We both decided that the fishing was already much better than we originally expected, and given Lance’s success ratio to mine, I altered my rig to a small flesh/egg pattern. We had seen no salmon, but the fish definitely seemed to be keyed into eggs with some flesh. For the next hour or so we leap-frogged as we caught fish; I got to lead most of the time as Lance was still getting hits way more than me, including when he fished behind me.

I came up to a spot where a deep undercut bank had formed under a huge cottonwood tree that blocked my way down the stream, being in the lead I had first shot at this hole. I wiggled line down into the current and started to swing my rod towards the undercut. Bam! A fish streaks out, grabs the fly, and runs back. Snap! For the umpteenth time that day I lost a fly to an aggressive strike and slow reactions. Checking my leader I decided to replace the last couple of sections and bump up the tippet size. Lance arrives; I tell him my sad story and invite him to give the spot a shot. It was a big enough hole to have another fish, and if I hadn’t put them all down, he might get lucky. He did. The biggest fish of the trip taxed his 6wt as he tried to keep it from running downstream under the cottonwood, and into the sticks and brush on both sides of the bank. Landed, it pretty much filled our net, which has a 19” opening. While fumbling for the DSLR in my pack the fish slipped the bondage of the net and shot upstream. Lance got some GoPro video from his chest setup, but there’s no pics.

We sat and talked while I finished repairing my leader. Lance had hit on at least twice as many fish as I had so far. He had switched to a glass bead at some point early on as the Hevi-Bead was dragging and snagging rocks in the shallow water we were fishing. The glass bead seemed to have the right amount of weight for the current. He had never lightened his 1X tippet, and had only lost two tag flies. Which, by the way, were nothing more than a bunny Select-a-Bead fly with the T-tag cut off. I, on the other hand, had lost 6 or 8 flies, mostly to aggressive strikes popping the tippet.


Glass bead with bunny trailer.

It was at this point in the day that my steady decline to the dark side was almost complete. I slipped an un-pegged glass bead on my tippet and tied on a bunny Select-a-Bead, sans the T-tag. I could hear Darth Vader’s deep raspy breathing somewhere in the back of my head; singing the line from Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” And for the rest of the day I didn’t leave. And I caught fish.

I’ve resisted bead fishing for a long time, especially pegged with a bare hook trailing. I am after all a fly fisher by choice, and beads are plastic (or glass) lures. But this year as Lance has test run the Hevi-Beads there’s just no getting around the dark side of fly fishing, beads can work better than anything else; especially on wild rainbows in tiny hidden streams.

Thanks for joining us, please share our story.



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