Boondogglers Delight: Drift fishing in the Kenai River

Boondoggling, a fun name for drift fishing out of a boat. When I started fishing in the Kenai River in Alaska in the late 90’s all we did was “boondoggle” the Middle Kenai River section in the fall for huge rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char.  Contrary to the true meaning of boondoggling (wasting money or time on questionable activities), this technique on the Kenai River is an effective and efficient way to catch lots of rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char.  

In earlier years, my buddies Clint and Cole would wake in the very early morning and roust me out of bed.  We would drive from Anchorage to Bings Landing on the river to run big drifts all day long for the trophy trout and char that lurked in the legendary waters of the Kenai River.  We had friendly competitions for the most fish and biggest fish.  The loser or losers had to drive home after a long day of fishing and the winner got to nap the entire way home.

With the boondoggle, you simply cast a weight and a leader attached to whatever fly you want to use.  You cast this setup directly upstream, to a seam line or into the current you want to run a drift through and when your weight hits the bottom, your drift begins.  Your fishing guide will slow the boat down just enough to drift the same speed as the current so you have a natural presentation on the drift. The technical side of this technique is finding the right weight and leader length from the weight to the fly.  Fortunately, when your fishing with me or one of the highly trained professionals at Jason’s Guide Service, we spend so much time on the water there’s no guessing. We’ll know the perfect specifications for the ultimate boondoggle rig on any given day.  

Side-Drifting the Kenai River for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char is another outstanding technique. It has the angler standing on shore or wade fishing instead of drifting in the boat. Side-Drifting requires a well-placed cast into the current and then you let the rig bounce along the bottom until you get a bite or the  drift stops; then you start all over.  A Side-Drift rig is set up the same way as a boondoggle rig. With the Side-Drift you are casting to different levels in the river’s water columns as opposed to casting upstream and drifting with the boat, but the  principle is the same; you need to have the right amount of weight and leader length to entice the trout and char into biting your fly.  

Jason’s Guide Service incorporates both boondoggling and Side-Drifting into our program on both the Upper and Middle Kenai River segments all summer and throughout the fall.  Drift fishing is a great way to cover lots of water and present many different types of flies to the rainbows and dollies.  Drift fishing reminds me of my youth when we fished Lindy and Roach rigs for walleyes on lakes and river systems in the upper midwest. We bounced night crawlers and leeches along the bottom of these fisheries. The only difference between now and then being, now we are catching Dolly Varden char and rainbow trout using artificial flies, versus the live bait we used in the past.