You know that feeling when you drop your fly a couple feet ahead of a rising trout. Or the anticipation your feel when you fly lands in the rings left by a huge trout that just ate a fry off the surface—heart beating, hands shaking you strip, strip … and WHAM the water erupts and the fly is devoured. In the same second the line goes taught and the fish takes off. Game on. The right fry, right place, right cast, it all comes together and the magic begins.
That is Rainbow Alley in June. If you like stalking fish, casting to rising fish, and watching the explosive take on the surface of a river, you should circle Rainbow Alley on your list of places to fish. Rainbow Alley is on Babine Lake and is about 500 km upstream from the ocean. It drains through Nilkitkwa Lake, Babine River and eventually into the Skeena River. Babine Lake is the rearing area for the second largest sockeye salmon population in British Columbia.
Traditionally Rainbow Alley is a fishery that starts with the big sockeye fry migrations at the end of May. The rainbow trout that live in Babine Lake, and Nilkitkwa Lake ease into this small narrow section of river to feed heavily in the spring, and put on some much needed weight after a long winter. There is no specific date to hit this magical time but it can occur anytime from the ice melt off until the end of june.
Most fry migrations from spawning areas to nursery lakes take place in the spring, when harsh winter conditions in lakes are moderating and the growing season is beginning. Sockeye salmon are unique among Pacific salmon in that their juveniles usually live in lakes during their freshwater residence, a period of 1–2 years. Within a lake system, different populations may spawn in inlet streams (streams flowing into lakes) or outlet streams (streams flowing out of lakes), or on gravel beaches within lakes.
At Rainbow Alley about 80% of the fry are inlet fish. Field observations and laboratory experiments have shown that fry from inlet populations typically move down- stream at night and hold during the day, whereas fry from outlet populations typically hold during the night and move upstream during the day. Migrations of smolt and especially fry are mainly confined to the darkest hours of the night.
The reason to travel at night during migrations, is that fry and smolts are both often subjected to an intense predation by birds and fish, and at night they have a real advantage over this. They are attacked from the moment they hatch until the moment they arrive back into the rivers as adults to spawn. Its a tough life similar to being a donut in a police station.
Since Rainbow Alley is shallow, the fry tend to be up very high in the water column, you will want to be fishing floating lines, and fishing early or late in the day is almost always the most effective way to fish the fry migration at Rainbow Alley.
Fishing the fry bust at Rainbow Alley is truly an amazing experience. To see such a massive density of trout feeding on the surface is an amazing sight.
One of our guests compares Rainbow Alley to flats fishing as you are looking for fish actively feeding on the surface. Use a floating line, long leader and cast your fry into the residual rings left from the trout feeding. Ideally you will place the fly in the direction the fish is working. The very second your fry hits the water begin to strip the line, and if you get a hit don’t stop stripping until the fish is on.
Strip speed can vary from fish to fish so continue experimenting until you get its attention. With so many fish feeding it can be distracting to focus on one fish, but we work the fish one at a time. This is a very exciting way to fish for trout and the action can be fast and furious.
When selecting a box of fry patterns, you want to make sure you have many sizes accounted for. Sockeye fry at the same age are not always the same size. Combine this with various ages of fry migrating through it quickly becomes apparent you need to represent a few sizes of fry to target these finicky trout.
If your interested in fishing Rainbow Alley and learning more about the fry fishery contact us 1-877-846-9153, We look forward to seeing you on the water