What a killer rainbow! Congrats Matt!
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I came to Alaska in the summer of 2003 with a college buddy from Wyoming. At first, I was blown away by the sheer scope and beauty of Alaska. I moved down to Seward to begin working on the halibut charter boats.
While I enjoyed working on the ocean, my passion is fishing the rivers. I began traveling the hour long drive to the Kenai and surrounding watersheds several times a week after a long day on the ocean. It was here on the Kenai I began seeing pictures of some of the giant rainbows that this water shed can produce. I became obsessed. Over the next five years I couldn't stop thinking about 30" trout.
It was because of this new passion, I finally landed a job guiding on the Kenai for Drifters Lodge in the spring of 2009. It was a wonderful season for me, and trout fishing was phenomenal. I had several clients land rainbows over 30" and was earning a pretty good reputation on the river, but I had yet to land one of those elusive beasts myself.
I can remember that morning of September 12, 2009. The books were light and all of us guides had the day off. I had made plans with one of the other guides and some friends to go fishing the wildlife refuge that day. In a move that breaks all guy code, my buddy bumped me off the boat in favor of his girlfriend who decided the last minute to go. Well as fortune would have it, it was for the best. Upset, I went to my boss and asked him if he would like to go fishing with me. He was delighted. The two of us set off for the famous "Middle" Kenai. I had told everyone at the lodge that this was my day and I was happy I wasn't fishing the refuge, because I was going to, "go catch a 20 LB. rainbow with my boss."
Approaching the river, my boss told me that he wanted to row me and that I should fish. I was stoked! I had been hitting big fish all week down here with clients and now I was going to get to fish my honey hole personally!
First drift, I locked up a nice rainbow. It was about 23" and a nice fish, but not what we were looking for. The second drift produced nothing. On the third drift, my indicator went down and I set the hook. It was about then that all hell broke loose. My line started screaming upriver, fast. The fish showed no signs of slowing down. It made 4 brilliant jumps in the distance. My boss was shouting at me he that he thought it was a king! It was hard to tell at that distance but I knew at long last I had finally hooked into my fish!
I had waited 5 years for this moment and it had finally arrived. The only problem was that this fish was still taking line. I looked down and saw that I was about to run out of backing! This was crazy, the fish had taken almost 200 yards of line by this point! I made the decision to try and turn the fish. I buried the tip of my fly rod and the fish obeyed! He turned around so quickly I couldn't keep up. Frantically, I stripped and reeled for everything I was worth. I watched in horror as my backing went slack and wrapped around the tip of my rod. Remaining calm I quickly untangled the line, stuck the tip back in the water, and reeled like a madman. It worked!
Because I had buried my fly line in the water, the current had held it tight to the fish and he was still on the line. The fish made 3 more vicious runs, but after 20 minutes, I had almost won the fight. The fish was at the boat, but he wouldn't come off the bottom. This was crazy! Rainbows don't stay down like that after a fight that long! I worried that if I put to much pressure, my 10 LB. fluorocarbon would snap. Added to this was that fact that my boss was on the net and hadn't netted a fish in years!
Luckily, fate was on my side and the fish came up. It was the biggest rainbow I had seen in my entire life. My boss worked the net flawlessly and I had won! I had finally done it.
The fish taped at 33 3/4" x 22 1/2". I couldnít believe it, I had finally landed Walter! As it turned out, getting ditched by the other guys was one of the best things to happen to me! Measurements were taken and photos were snapped, and we quickly put this legend back in the water. One of the best parts of the battle is to watch that monster swim off and know that he will be out there to fight another day!
Thanks again Rick for helping to bring this fish back to life for me! I am going to attach a couple of pix of some other beautiful bows that illustrate the colors I was talking about. Canít wait to see that bad boy on the wall!
Kenai River Drifters Lodge