For weeks, rainbow trout fishing on the Kenai River has been hot. Clear, low water filled with the rotting flesh and stray eggs of spawned out red and king salmon floating alongside the burgeoning silver salmon run have meant that just about any runout, tail behind an island or gravel bar was likely to land at least one trout.
But a few days of high tides and the release of a glacial dam at Snow Glacier is muddying things up for anglers in the upper and lower river.
“It’s going to affect everything negatively,” said Brian Miller, co-owner of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna, on the release of the dam. “The water comes up, the water gets murky, it turns to chocolate. Visibility turns to nothing.”
While they notoriously finicky fish will be harder to target, they’re resilient and will likely find food no matter the river conditions, Miller said.
Josh Hayes, of Alaska Trout Guides, said the changing conditions could liven up the fishery.
“It changes things up and moves fish around,” he said. “Some of these big fish have been sitting in the same places all summer, the same holes for a home base. Now, they’re getting pushed out of there and they’re going to make some mistakes and eat some stuff they wouldn’t have.”
He said guide and angler behavior should change as well.
“Instead of getting these fish in the same spots and everyone going to the same spots, there are different bars to try. Hopefully the people spread out with the fish,” he said.
Flesh patterns, mimicking both the rotting and filleted carcasses floating down river could be effective.
Miller said anything from white to pink or purple could be found on the river this time of year.
Egg colors run the gamut as well.
“There are new eggs coming in and old eggs coming down,” Miller said. “Eggs can be brighter oranges, the reds, that kind of stuff. Old eggs can be washed out browns and whites.”
Hayes said when he’s fly fishing on the upper, middle or lower river and the water levels spike, he lengthens his leader and will often change to a bigger egg pattern.
“I want something a little brighter, a little more visible,” he said.
Another trick, he said, was to consider lures that resemble bugs.
“This water has been washing into the grasses on shore,” he said. “It washes a lot of insects into the water. So a big bug or a worm. It’s an anomaly for sure, but sometimes being different is important.”