Copper River near Kokhanok, Alaska
Yes, there are several copper rivers in Alaska but almost without fail when people are talking about the Copper River they are talking about the one on the south side of Lake Ilianna. Did you know the Copper River is one of the only rivers in Alaska that has hatches of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis? Do you think that is the reason the fish here grow so big (rainbows of 20 inches are not that uncommon)? It might be part of the reason, at least at the beginning of the season, but by the third week of July all action on top of the water is done. Sockeye salmon are the first species to run up the river (there is a total of 5 different species that run up the river) and the rainbows get busy with eggs and dead salmon. Guess which pattern is the best. Its egg pattern in any color and any size just so long as it looks like an egg (I have heard of a guy that uses golf balls; I am not kidding). Flesh flies will also work at this time too. As the season goes on the fish keep getting fatter and fatter. If you want to catch rainbows that are so fat it makes Garfield (the cat) look like a body builder I recommend you come in August and September. The main way to fish the river is to jet (literally, jet boats are the best) up to the first big waterfall and drift downstream fishing gravel bars, pools, stumps, undercut banks, and anything else that might hold fish as you go. I recommend you hire a guide to fish here because you do not want to spend your vacation trying to figure out where the fish are; all you have to do is figure out how to catch another fish without your arms falling off. As one last note the river can be really crowed so this is not the place to come for solitude. If you are looking for that fish above the falls where you can find tons of grayling from 12 to 20 inches long swimming around. Good luck fishing!
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