ainbow King Lodge, located on the shores of Lake Iliamna, was founded in 1973 and has been described as Alaska’s Premiere Fly-Out Lodge… a 5 star hotel with planes in the middle of an Eskimo Village. What distinguishes Rainbow King from other lodges is it’s private leases for exclusive use of six fishing sites… no competition, no crowds, spectacular fishing. Rodger Glaspey, his partners, and manager, Craig “Gus” Augustynovich, have built on the past and put together an absolutely first class operation dedicated to giving their guests the best week of fishing in their lives.
Travel to the Lodge requires an angler to get to Anchorage on Sunday in time for a 4:00pm charter flight on Lake Clark Air to Iliamna, which is about an hour’s air time. Upon arrival, guests will settle in to their rooms and then meander down to the Recreation Center for snacks and to meet each other and the guides. Dinner is served at 7pm every night and can only be described as outstanding. Do not plan on losing weight on your trip! A typical day begins early, with a made to order breakfast served from 6 am on. Guests will decide ‘where they want to fish/what they want to catch’ each evening and will be assigned a pick up time which is usually at the lake shore behind the Lodge, weather permitting. The flights to the rivers give you a birds-eye view of Alaska that will never be forgotten. It’s different every day, but always breathtaking. Every fishing location is unique. Some require a hike through woods or over tundra while others begin in rafts or jet boats. At some you’ll be
within a quarter mile of the plane the whole day. Most streams in Alaska flow from one lake to another, so youâ€™ll be either floating down in a raft or running up in a jet boat. While some of the fishing is done from the boats, most is done from the gravel bars and easy wading areas. Sometimes the fishing takes second fiddle to the scenery and wildlife, especially if you choose a river where the brown bears are actively feeding on salmon. A shore lunch will be prepared streamside every day and it will be different each day. Nothing quite compares to fresh salmon cooked over a campfire in the wilds of Alaska. Thereâ€™s so much to choose from at Rainbow King and only 6 days to take it all in. If you want to bring some fresh salmon home with you, the Lodge will vacuum pack and freeze the filets and pack them for your trip home. On the final day of your trip (Saturday) you will fish a full day, have dinner, then return to Anchorage on Lake Clark Air in time to catch a red-eye flight back home with enough memories to last a lifetime!
CLOTHING AND TACKLE
t’s been said that summer in Alaska is a weekend in July, but that’s not exactly true. During Rainbow King’s season (mid-June thru mid-September) the weather can range from 65 degrees and sunny to 40 degrees and rain…on the same day. The key is to dress in layers and carry a back pack to store any layers you don’t need. Alaska’s weather can change rapidly but the reports are usually accurate so the staff will give you a pretty reliable idea of what to expect. Obviously you will need waders, but the most important item of clothing is your rain jacket. Get a very good one and never leave the lodge without it, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Unless you’re specifically targeting King salmon, you will be fly fishing. You will need a 5 or 6 weight for the smaller trout streams and a 7 or 8 weight for salmon. Use floating lines for trout, and 200-300 grain sink tips for the salmon. If you’re not sure what to bring on a certain trip, just ask Craig when he sets the schedule up the evening prior. If you appreciate epic dry fly fishing, bring a 3 or 4 weight for the grayling. The Lodge will provide all the flies you will ever need.
An Awesome Land
laska is clearly our last frontier and the scenery is breathtaking. The daily plane rides will cover everything from miles of tundra, to glaciers, to hundreds of rivers, creeks and lakes, to ocean shorelines with 30â€™ tides, to snow capped mountains and volcanoes. Guests get to select where they want to fish each day and most elect not to visit the same area twice. Each morningâ€™s plane ride will put you into sensory overload and the woods, waters and critters will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.
here is wildlife everywhere, even on the smallest creeks. Spawning sockeyes are fascinating as they complete their life cycle. Eagles will be perched in the trees, a moose may walk across your stream, and the bears are just mesmerizing, but they get their own chapter. Cameras are a necessity. If youâ€™ve progressed past the point-and-shoot stage, bring a medium range (17-85) zoom lens and a 100-400 telephoto lens for wildlife. You can carry the camera equipment to the streams in a backpack. It may be a bit of extra weight to tote around each day, but the photos will make it all worthwhile. Your adventure will stay with you forever.
ADIES – Rainbow King is a family lodge. It’s not just for the guys or serious anglers. All our guides are casting instructors and will give you the personal attention needed to allow you to catch more fish than you could have imagined even if you’ve never picked up a fly rod before.. The wading is easy, you don’t have to cast very far, and the Lodge staff pampers you. Your fun and comfort are their primary goals. It’s the best way possible to experience the wilds of Alaska. Don’t be left out of a great vacation.
ing Salmon are the largest of Alaska’s salmon and the run begins in midJune and continues thru midJuly. One of the most prolific king salmon rivers in all Alaska is the Nushigak. Rainbow King maintains a satellite camp on the Nush for those that want to direct all of their attention to catching kings, which can run over 50 lbs. The Nush is a very large and difficult river to fly fish so back-trolling with conventional tackle is the most productive method for ‘catching’. Rates at the Nush Camp are substantially less than the main Lodge, but fly out trips for kings from Iliamna are available to everyone.
ockeye salmon are the center of the entire Alaskan ecosystem. They move into the rivers from the sea in late June and will be in full migration mode by July 4th. When they first enter fresh water, Sockeyes are sleek salmon in appearance and excellent table fare. They are strong fighters and great fun on a 7 weight fly rod and a Teeny 200 sink tip line. It’s said that sockeyes don’t feed once they enter the fresh water, but they do strike flies out of anger, especially leech patterns that resemble their natural egg stealing enemies. Rainbow King’s lease of the waters below the Gorge on the Newhalen River gives its guests private access to literally the best sockeye fishing in the world. Thousands of sockeyes migrate up the Newhalen and have to push thru the class 5 rapids of the Gorge. Before taking on this chore, they rest up in a cove of calm water where Rainbow King’s anglers are waiting. Everyone gets their limit at the Gorge and your catch will be filleted, flash frozen, and vacuum packed for your trip home.
s summer progresses, sockeyes move up river and scoop out ‘beds’ where they lay and fertilize their eggs. By the time active spawning begins, the silver coloration has morphed into green heads and bright red bodies. The males have developed hooked jaws and sharp teeth designed to fight off rivals and protect the beds. Sockeyes aren’t edible when they’re in this spawning stage and will eventually die of natural causes. However in the meantime their eggs and rotting flesh are the prime nourishment for rainbow trout, dolly varden , char and grayling. The rainbows in particular will stay down stream from the sockeyes waiting for their eggs to break free and get swept away in the current, so that’s where you’ll be fishing. If you want to catch a bright red sockeye for a photo, use a four inch leech pattern….the males strike anything that swims through the nests that they are protecting. They actually put up a pretty good fight on a 5 weight rod. From late July thru September most all your fishing will be with egg patterns behind spawning sockeyes. Being able to observe the life cycle of sockeye salmon is one of the real treats in fishing Alaska.
rayling are sometimes called the ‘sailfish of the north’. Their beautifully colored dorsal fin makes them a unique catch and Alaska holds the biggest grayling anywhere. They range from 12 to over 20 inches and hit dry flies with abandon. Rainbow King has several rivers that provide excellent dry fly fishing for trophy grayling from June thru September. They seem to like small attractor pattern flies, but you can’t beat a Parachute Adams, Humpy, Royal Wulff or a Griffith’s Knat on a 5x tippet. Graying are the only fish that routinely jump out of the water and onto the fly, which makes for a spectacular strike. In August and September when the sockeyes have left the Gorge, the dry fly fishing for grayling is spectacular. Everyone should spend a day chasing grayling with dry flies on a 3 or 4 weight rod.
Halibut, Pinks and Char
alibut are most famous for their table fare but these â€œflattiesâ€? range to well over 200 lbs in an area called Calypso Bay. Rainbow King keeps several skiffs at Calypso for those that might want to take on some of these bruisers. Calypso is relatively shallow by halibut standards, so huge weights and strong currents are not a problem. The Lodge will have all tackle needed for this fishery
ink salmon are the smallest of the 5 Alaskan salmon and are generally considered a by-catch. They are also called â€˜humpiesâ€™ due to the enlarged humps the males develop in fresh water. They have the heaviest migrations in even years and can be a lot of fun on a 6 weight rod, but hardly anyone specifically targets pinks.
har are also a secondary target, being mixed in with the rainbows and silver salmon in certain rivers. They are brilliantly colored in September when they take on their spawning colors and they can reach a length of close to 30 inches. No one ever complains about catching char.
ainbow trout are the most sought after prize in Alaska’s rivers. In early June there can be some excellent dry fly fishing for rainbows. They are very aggressive feeders in June because they have just survived a typically frigid Alaskan winter and need to restock their body fat. Leach and minnow patterns are effective along with tiny ‘smolt’ patterns that imitate the salmon fry.
n early July the rainbow fishing slows down a bit. They seem to sense that hordes of fresh sockeyes are about to invade their rivers and they simply ‘get out of the way’, letting the bigger, aggressive salmon settle down and start laying eggs. By mid July, the rainbows are back in full force and beads are the key. Years ago salmon eggs were imitated by glow bug patterns, but over the last decade or so plastic beads have replaced traditional ‘flies’ in Alaska. The beads are simply deadly when it comes to catching rainbows. Flesh flies and leach patterns also work, but the standard is a bead fished like a nymph with a strike indicator. On most of the creeks and rivers a 5 or 6 weight rod is fine, unless you’re on one of the really big rivers where a 7 weight may be advantageous. All Alaskan rainbows are native and are released. Replica mounts can be arranged so bring a tape measure.
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Perhaps the most famous ‘big bow’ river is the Lower Talarik which is about a 20 minute flight from Rainbow King. It’s said that more 10 lb rainbows have been caught within a quarter mile of the “Rock Hole” on the Lower Talarik than anywhere else in the world. While the Lower Talarik gets all the press, Rainbow King has quietly leased the exclusive rights to fish the Upper Talarik, which holds just as many giant rainbows. You’ll need a 6 or probably a 7 weight for the giant September rainbows…they are spectacular fighters, often jumping onto the far bank in their frenzy to break free. Fighting a 30” rainbow on a fly rod can’t be accurately explained…it has to be experienced!
ilver (Coho) salmon appear in mid-August and stay through September. Silvers are very likely the most fun of all the Alaskan salmon. They range up to 20 lbs and strike flies with gusto. The tackle of choice is a 7 or 8 weight rod with a sink-tip line and a bright, flashy fly. Rainbow King fishes several rivers for silvers depending on which watershed is holding the heaviest run at the time. On some rivers, guests will run upstream in jet boats, while on other rivers, youâ€™ll be fishing right next to the plane. Silvers are fished very close to tidewater where chromers are most prevalent. As they remain in fresh water, they too morph into a bizarre red and black, hook jaw monster that makes for a great photo.
EARS â€“ donâ€™t ever go to Alaska without taking a day to spend some time with Alaskaâ€™s Brown Bears. They are the most majestic creatures in North America and all summer long they follow the sockeyes. In July they congregate at Brookes Falls where they intercept the sockeyes that are trying to jump the Falls to get to their spawning sites. There can be any number of bears at Brookes on any given day and all are observed safely from a protected viewing platform under the supervision of the Park Rangers. Towards the end of the season there are still bears at Brookes but they are spread out rather than concentrated at the Falls. In August and September there will be al least a bear or two on almost every river that you will be fishing. Some rivers like Moraine and Kulik will have lots of bears due to the large sockeye concentrations. There is no danger in sharing a river with these magnificent creatures. They are far more interested in catching salmon than harassing tourists. The rule is never to get closer than 50 yards to a bear and the guides are well trained in dealing with any that you may encounter. Most will ignore you completely, simply content to fatten up on salmon as fast as possible. They will be seen wading in the rivers and cruising the shorelines. There will be tracks and scat everywhere. There is nothing like watching a thousand pound brown bear chase down a red sockeye salmon. Be sure to bring your longest telephoto lens (my favorite is the 100-400) and spend a day watching wild Alaskan brown bears do their thing.
Rainbow King was the best fishing trip I’ve ever taken. I’d never been fly fishing before, but the guides are all trained instructors and very patient. The wading was easy and the scenery is breathtaking. I can’t say enough about the comforts of the lodge or how exciting the flights were each day. My hobby is photography and I will keep those images and memories forever. This is not just a guys’ trip! I was the only one to catch a 30’ rainbow! DR. DEBORAH LONGWILL, Miami Florida
Rainbow King Lodge is the best in Alaska. No doubt about it! The number of places they fly to and fish, the exceptional amenities, meals and service at the Lodge makes my trip the highlight of my summer. You can’t beat it! JOHNNY MILLER, World Golf Hall of Fame, NBC Television Golf Analyst
My 11 years old son and I recently spent a week at rainbow King—July 17 to 23rd 2016. We were greeted at the Iliamna airport by the guides and taken to the lodge which is only a few miles away. From the minute we arrived, we were welcomed by the staff, and immediately felt their warm hospitality. The other guests must have felt it as well, and everyone just sort of naturally mixed. We had a wonderful dinner, and then a quick briefing on the week ahead by Gus. Our room was great, and the beds are very comfortable! We were awakened by a knock on the door the next morning and in came the hot coffee and hot cocoa for my son—not too bad! We went to the dining room for breakfast, back to our room to get ready, and off we went. It’s that simple. Each day was a new adventure followed by relaxing in the “rec room”, a great meal, lots of laughs, and a great nights sleep. The fishing was incredible, and the guides were AWESOME. They were all extremely personable, polite, attentive and knowledgable. Not only can they fish and instruct, but they can cook the best shore side lunches I could have imagined. The pilots and the aircraft were also AWESOME! We were in Heaven. Gus and his crew are the most hospitable, and professional bunch of people I’ve ever met—hands down. The owners and staff of Rainbow King have got it figured out! John Jr. did not want to leave… If your are looking for a first class Alaska fishing experience, look no further. The fishing was incredible (sockeye, rainbows, grayling), but it was the people who made it a truly special experience. thank you Gus and your crew for taking such good care of us and making our trip of a lifetime so perfect! John D Fentress, Capt. M/Y Sea Bear
Don’t think for a minute that Rainbow King is just for the guys! I’d never even picked up a fly rod before my trip and with the help of their great guides, I caught more fish than I ever dreamed possible. Rainbow King is a 5 star hotel in the middle of an Eskimo village. The food is out of this world! It’s absolutely the best way to experience Alaska. RHONA CHABOT, age 75, Miami Florida.
My experiences at Rainbow King Lodge have been the most positive one could hope for. It’s a truly top quality, professionally operated, lodge located in the heart of Alaska’s best fishing. If you’re looking for that fishing trip of a lifetime or a place to take your family year after year, then look no further….Rainbow King is the answer. JIM TEENY, Professional fly fisherman and fly line designer.
’ve been to Rainbow King Lodge most every year since 1993 and it is one place I can recommend wholeheartedly! The staff is outstanding. The guides are chosen on their ‘people’ skills rather than their casting and they make beginners just as comfortable as the experts. The accommodations are first class…comfortable beds, gourmet meals, nice people sharing the vacation of a lifetime – it doesn’t get any better. The Lodge runs two Beavers and a Turbine Otter that are meticulously maintained. The pilots are all experienced and stay with the same plane all season. There are several excellent fishing spots that are easily accessible by truck in the rare occasions that flying is weathered out. It’s a totally turn key operation…all the guests have to do is show up in Anchorage at Lake Clark Air at 4pm on the Sunday their trip begins. Everything from that point on is taken care of. I’ve been fishing all over the world and literally have spent over a year of my life fly fishing in Alaska at the very best lodges. That being said, if I had one week left on this planet, I’d want to spend it at Rainbow King in September! If you’d like to see more of my photos from Rainbow King, go to patfordphotos.com. Tight Lines!