Try a dry: Russian a floater's delight

Nick Ohlrich submitted this photo of a rainbow trout caught on a dry fly on the Russian River a few weeks ago. Submit your fishing photos to

Peninsula fly fishermen looking for rainbow trout action may have thought their only options were slinging beads, flesh flies or egg-sucking leeches on the Kenai River.


However, at least one popular area river offers anglers a shot at rainbow trout glory on something other than a wet fly.

Dry fly fishing on the Russian River between runs of sockeye is an excellent choice for a time of year that is typically slow for other fish, said Nick Ohlrich, co-owner and guide of Alaska Drift Away Fishing.

"Especially when those caddis are hatching, if it is brown you'll hit fish," he said. "Some of the bigger fish are a little bit pickier and you are going to have to try out some different sizes and different patterns to tune into what they are feeding on. But to go out there and just catch fish, brown and floating works, really."

Mike Harpe, manager and guide of Kenai River Fly Fishing, agreed. He recommended trying caddis, parachute adams or early stone flies in the area of the river from the falls to the border of the sanctuary.

"I think these fish are just opportunivores right now," Harpe said. "We've had some real small hatches, but they're hungry just coming off the post spawn scenario."

One good time to try fishing dry flies is on a warm sunny day after a stretch of rainy days -- that would be the best time to match a hatch, Harpe said.

"I'd say these next few weeks I would start fishing dry flies and dabbling with that and nymphs," he said.

Ohlrich said he usually sticks to the parachute adams pattern and fishes the small pockets of water where the current is medium to slow.

"It doesn't seem like they get too, too picky there," he said. "I don't think they have too much dry fly pressure, so they are still fairly dumb, which is awesome."

The Russian River sockeye run peaked on June 23 with 2,420 fish counted through the weir that day. Currently the river is averaging less than a fourth of that count which means now is the right time to fish trout, Ohlrich said.

"When you get a lot of sockeye moving into a system they like the same runs that trout do, so (if there's) too many sockeye, the trout will push out into different areas," he said. "Sockeye don't typically like the real slow waters, so you can still do well on dry fly fishing."

Ohlrich recommended using a four-pound, foot-long tippet on a nine foot, four-piece rod. Anglers should also aim for rocks, trees or other cover along the edge of the river where trout will be holding to conserve energy and find an easy meal.

"Fish-holding structure is good," he said. "If you can find little flat runs of two foot water where the current is slower you'll be able to catch fish there, but if you can sight out some rainbows hanging out in the river you can cast to them. That's how I got my biggest fish out of there -- I saw two out in an area, sighted them out, made a few casts and was able to make it happen."

The bigger fish also seem to hang out toward the sanctuary marker, Ohlrich said.

"Once the sockeye thin out so will the people, so there is just more food washing down that way," he said.

Brian Smith can be reached at


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