Trout fishing in salmon land

Brendyn Shiflea shared this photo of a successful outing for trout.

One of the best things about all the red filleting that goes on along the banks of the Russian River is that the “waste” gets the trout riled and in the mood for a salmon dinner.


“Match the hatch,” said Colin Lowe, of Kenai Cache, an outfitter and guide service in Cooper Landing.

While fleshy salmon scraps aren’t exactly part of the insect lifecycle, they can be matched with some dyed rabbit fur on the appropriately legal hook.

It’s probable that some fisherman will take a break from the sockeye fishery during this last weekend of the lull between runs and return to the trout before the late run begins its spike; others fish trout all summer long. Lowe is one of them and his choice of trout stream is the combat zone itself, the Russian River.

“Bar none it’s five-star fishing all the time,” said Lowe. “The more (salmon) the better the trout fishing. “

With hundreds of thousands of fisherman hours about to be spent pulling sockeye from the Kenai drainage with rod and net, Lowe says the same river system is, by comparison, under used for its stellar trout fishing — rainbows and dollies.

As a way to avoid the shoulder-to-shoulder of salmon chasers this time of year a lot of fisherman walk the trail into the Russian River falls and then fish the three-mile stretch downstream to the confluence with the Kenai. Along the way, fish trout lies in between the sockeye holes and enjoy some solitude amid the madness.

“There is a lot of river between the falls and the confluence,” Lowe said. “We do it all the time.”

This week’s lull between early and late red runs is an optimal time to fish bugs and nymph patterns and trout fish to your heart’s content. The flesh fly will return as the second run sockeye pick up and riverside filleting begins again in earnest. Until then, one thing is certain: bugs — black nymphs — are effective.

After August 21, when the bulk of the red run reaches the spawning beds above the lakes and the flies-only rule is lifted, beads will rule the river. Until beads are OK, you can cast Iliamna pinkies or any number of legal egg patterns to take trout during the melee.

There is always something going on the Russian River, which Lowe considers among the best dry-fly fishing water on the Kenai.

The fly artist out working the river in full uniform can take match-the-hatch to extremes but almost anything works on the Russian, according to Lowe. His theory, so many bugs fall out of the overhanging trees to waiting Russian River rainbows, which are smarter than others elsewhere and can ID multiple food sources at once.

Just throw a parachute caddis and see, he said.

Come the first of August, the fireworks will begin for fly casters working the Quartz Creek “bead fishery,” where a large population of rainbows and Dollies frenzy on the eggs of spawning salmon above. It’s there that Lowe says a 50-to-100-fish day is not uncommon. Almost every presentation draws a strike, he said.

“It becomes a fishery of spoiled fisherman,” Lowe said.

If you’re going to bring in the bows by flipping beads consider that sockeye eggs in that spawn are about 7mm, so 6-to-8 mm beads will work best. Lowe says a fisherman can go up to 10mm and still succeed.

“The bead bite during the spawn is ridiculous,” Lowe said.

If you want a total break from the river this weekend there is always Rainbow Lake, which is stocked and any pattern goes well on a two or three weight rod.

Of course, when the trout fishing coalition heads for Quartz Creek, it’s a great time to sneak back to those trout lies on Russian.

Reach Greg Skinner at