Fat rainbow trout, colorful leaves, and sprinkles of rain make Alaskan Autumns awesome. During this time, rainbow trout gorge themselves for the long winter ahead and get fatter than almost anywhere else in the United States. From Southcentral to Western Alaska, amazing fishing is to be had. With most of these areas being so remote, these fisheries are pristine and for the most part, relatively unpressured. This makes the cooler months of Fall the best time to experience the chunky Rainbow trout in Alaska that dwell under the cold Northern waters.
This September, we were lucky to head up to the Iliamna River and stay at the Iliamna River Lodge for a chance to learn more about targeting these beautiful beasts in their natural environment. Feel free to CLICK HERE to check out how you can explore one of the most remote fisheries in the world.
Why is Fall in Alaska so special for rainbow trout fishing?
Salmon are what make Alaskan fall unique from many other places. The salmon spawn around the same time leaves begin to change and rainbow trout are ready to devour the eggs. As they fatten themselves up for the long winter, these trout get impressively large. Autumn in Alaska is a quick season, it spans from August to early October, so it is important to plan a trip within that time. Although the days get shorter and shorter, the last frontier keeps one up all night thinking of the fat rainbows to be caught.
Alaskan Rainbow Trout
During autumn in western Alaska, it is not unusual to catch 25″-30″ rainbow trout, with an accumulated mass that is equally impressive. The remote location of the Bristol Bay region provides fish that do not see flies every day and will fight ferociously for their food. Once you feel the head shake of a rainbow trout in Alaska it is hard to go back to any other type of fishing. Alaskan rainbows are also incredibly beautiful, with dark colors and leopard spots.
Flies to Use to Catch Alaskan Rainbow Trout
Fall fishing in Alaska is so unique because salmon are spawning and trout are eating their eggs. As the salmon naturally die, chunks of their flesh fall off and trout also eat these along with leeches.
Here’s a list of some of the best flies to use:
- Flesh Fly: Imitating dead salmon flesh, peach, and orange rabbit strips are used to create flesh flies. Even smaller remote rainbow trout will devour articulated flesh flies larger than their heads.
- Beads: Some people argue that beads are not a real fly fishing technique… but fall in Alaska is one of the best times for bead fishing. One uses beads by pegging them on their line with a soft plastic peg, less than two inches above a hook. Just as one might “match the hatch”, beads can be appropriately matched to eggs found on the river bed.
- Wooly Bugger: Although the wooly bugger does not represent any singular food source, it is popular amongst Alaskan fly-fishers and trout alike.
- Mice: While your chance of enticing some epic top-water-eats is certainly higher in the fall, there is nothing more heart-stopping than watching a big fish come up and slam a mouse pattern skating across the water.
- Black Leech: Tied similar to a flesh fly, the black leech uses black rabbit strips along with flash to create an attractor for large rainbow trout.
- Egg-Sucking Leech: An all-time favorite for Alaskan rainbows, the egg-sucking leech is tied with a bright orange egg imitation near the hook eyelet. Commonly tied in black or purple, this fly is often smacked by rainbow trout.
- Dalai Lama: Another popular fly for both rainbow trout and silver salmon fishing in Alaska, the Dalai Lama is an articulated streamer created with black and white rabbit strips.
Where to Fish for Huge Rainbow Trout in Alaska Next Fall?
The Bristol Bay Drainage in Western Alaska offers incredible Fall fishing. The trout and char become huge from munching on salmon eggs all summer and offer some of the most intense fishing you’ll ever experience. Being in such a remote part of Alaska, the only way to get to these pristine places is by bush plane.
Here are some lodges we recommend:
Iliamna River Lodge: With access to all the famed rivers of the Bristol Bay region, this lodge is dedicated to ensuring you have unforgettable memories of your time in western Alaska. From their spectacular lodge to the exquisite food, fishing is only half of the experience when staying at this pristine lodge. Located on the Iliamna River, jet boats and floatplanes will take you to incredible fishing destinations. Famed for massive rainbow trout, native arctic char, salmon, grayling, and pike, Iliamna River Lodge will not disappoint. Check out how you can book your trip HERE
- Alagnak River Lodge: Located in the tidal region of the Alagnak River, the pristine wilderness experience is what Alagnak Lodge has to offer, from wildlife encounters to salmon fishing and an “at home” feel.
- Mission Lodge: Overlooking Lake Aleknagik, this remote luxury lodge provides fly out fishing throughout the Bristol Bay region and has its own spa.
- Alaska’s Bearclaw Lodge: Based on Lake Aleknagik, the Bearclaw Lodge offers access to five different rivers and a variety of species including arctic char, grayling, rainbow trout, pike, king salmon, and sockeye salmon.
- Intricate Bay Lodge: Located near the center of Iliamna Lake, this Orvis endorsed fly-fishing lodge treats guests to the beauty of Iliamna Lake while allowing easy access to local rivers and chunky rainbow trout.
What to Pack for Fall Fishing in Alaska
While most of the lodges/ outfitters lower 48 residents will find themselves in the company of will have almost all the gear you need, it never hurts to come prepared with the essentials. If you can stow away a pair of waders, a rain jacket, and the appropriate cold-weather gear, you don’t have to worry about relying on rental gear that may not fit right.
Important Tip: Be prepared for the weather. Temperatures can get below freezing as fall reaches its end in Alaska. Especially in October, wearing the warmest clothing you have is important. Layering up is always a good idea because it is much easier to take layers off than add them. Having a rain jacket (that is 100% waterproof) is a must-have since there is nothing worse than being wet and cold!
Here is a short packing list for some essential gear we recommend:
- Waterproof Backpack
- Waterproof Sling Pack
- Fleece Hat
- Wool Socks
- Hand warmers
- Fleece Sweater
Mountain View Sports Fly Shop employee, Keenan (@keenbo) shared some local expertise about fall fishing in southcentral Alaska. ” I think flesh flies and some smaller streamers are necessities in the fall. It is also key to have both fresh and dead egg imitations in the fall because of the variety of salmon spawn times. For example, silver salmon can spawn late into the fall so all spectrums of 8mm beads can be usable. If fresh eggs aren’t available though, the trout may transition back to flesh flies or streamers such as sculpins. Especially later in the year, finding deep water where food can easily flow to is a must. The trout don’t have to expend so much energy in the oxygen-rich depths.”
Pre-tied leaders rigged with beads, split shots, and hooks are a great tool for when it is cold out. That way when you break off it’s simple to tie on another leader without freezing your hands off!
Also, always be sure to also always handle fish with care and keep them in the water for as long as possible. If you are taking pictures, hold the fish in or over water and release it in a timely matter. Check out the Keep Fish Wet site for more tips and information.
Fly fishing in Alaska during Fall is an Unforgettable Experience!
Fall fishing for trout in Alaska is unlike anywhere else, the fish are huge, hungry, and wild. Nothing compares to catching a massive rainbow trout on flesh flies and beads. Hopefully, these tips will prepare you for an awesome adventure in the last frontier. A special thank you to Iliamna River Lodge for helping make this piece happen! To book your Alaskan fall fishing trip, CLICK HERE.