Not Saying “Give Up Chasing Trophy Rainbow Trout” when you fly fish and raft down a spectacular tundra river. But you should know why Sea run Dolly Varden Char are spectacular and why anglers travel to Bristol Bay Alaska specifically for huge pre-spawn males in mid-late July.
Here’s the beta: There are more than 50,000 Sea Run Dolly Varden returning to the 5 primary rivers we fish. The peak of the run is July 15-30. The July fish are the largest adults and are returning to the river where they were born to stake a headwater territory and spawn. An 18- 24” adult is a great fish and is the backbone of the trophy fishery. The most memorable fish push 28”. They are often highly pigmented in pre-spawn colors and considered by many to be more beautiful than the Leopard Spotted Rainbow. Plus the return of the largest Dolly Varden Char coincides with the lowest water levels and best weather of the summer.
Want to know more? Does the enigmatic Char intrigue you? Do you wonder why a fish tagged on the Togiak River, Goodnews, or Nushagak is later caught hundreds of miles away up the Yukon? Dollies intrigue me! Like so many others I was once enthralled only with large Rainbows but then I incidentally took a few really notable Char. The whole deal is changed now. The big Char are treasured, they are not easy, yet are sublimely beautiful like a brook trout is beautiful. We cast as they bust balls of smelt in the brackish estuary or while herding salmon fry in the headwaters. We throw the biggest streamers in the box in deep channels or sometimes must make perfect matches to the salmon egg “hatch” on the flats. This is a fish you want to spend some time with and it doesn’t hurt that the Rainbow and Salmon fishing is spectacular at the same time.