Mousing for Leopard Rainbows on the Kanektok River

From a note received from Jim Spence about fishing the Kanektok River in Alaska with the Duncansr:

My office wall is lined with framed pictures of Leopard Rainbows, Salmon and scenery from my many float trips on the Chosen River with the Duncan family. When things get hectic around here its nice to push away from my desk and look at my pictures while I reflect on all of the great times and incredible fishing I have experienced while floating with the Duncans.

To say the Duncans have me ‘hooked’ would be an understatement. My secretary knows that I do not like to be disturbed when I am working on a project. She also knows that there are a few people that I will accept a call from at any time. My wife or kids, my helicopter ski guide, or anyone from the Duncan family. It is simply a matter of priorities.

Monday morning was shaping up to be a typical Monday when my secretary buzzed me to tell me that Clint Duncan was holding on line two! I needed a break from what I was doing and I eagerly picked up the phone. Clint was very excited about a new permit the Duncans had been awarded by the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge!

When Clint said that the Duncans new Base Camp would be located in the middle section of the Chosen River it took awhile for the idea to sink in. To many of you this would not sound like incredible news but for an old die-hard Chosen River Rainbow fisherman to spend seven days in this section of the river is like a dream come true. The Duncans Base Camp would be located right in the heart of the best Rainbow trout fishing on the Chosen River, which many anglers feel (myself included) is the best trout fishing in Alaska. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my float trips down the Chosen River. The scenery in the upper river, the fantastic dry fly fishing for Arctic Char, Dolly Varden and Grayling, the great Salmon fishing and the camaraderie that develops on these Float trips.

All of these great memories are somewhat overshadowed by memories of large “Leopard” Rainbows taking mouse patterns off of the surface. These heavily spotted and brilliantly colored fish can really get into your blood. Clint kids me about having tunnel vision because on my last float trip down the Chosen River, I threw mouse patterns from the lake all the way to the take out.

By casting a mouse pattern all week I sacrificed some great fishing for other species. In the last 12 years I have caught thousands of Salmon, Arctic Char, Dolly Varden, and Grayling while fishing with the Duncans and while each of these species are a lot of fun, I now prefer to concentrate my efforts on stalking and enticing “Leopard Bows” to take a mouse pattern.

Clint went on to say that the Duncans small Weatherport Base Camp will be limited to just six guests with two anglers and one guide per powerboat. They will use these powerboats to access the best side channels and stretches of the river, where guests will have the option of walk and wade type fishing or float fishing from the boats. Although there is an abundance of 10 different species available from this camp I know what I will be spending the majority of my time doing.

In my mind there is nothing better than wading down a small side channel of the Chosen River hunting for ‘Leopard Bows.’ Spotting these unique trout laying in front of a root-wad, a snag, or laying under a cut bank is half of the challenge and excitement. The Duncans have noticed that once I have spotted a nice trout my casting really goes downhill. After I have untangled the fly line from around my ears if I am lucky enough to plop the mouse pattern down so that it swims within the visibility of the trout the take is almost inevitable.

Unfortunately as I watch a big “Leopard Bow” swim to take my mouse pattern my excitement level oftentimes peaks just after the trout breaks water and just before it closes its mouth. The result is I set the hook too soon and watched the big trout chomp at the place where my fly had just been.

The object of fishing is to hook, land, and in this case release the fish, however, it is enough for me to just see one of these magnificent fish try to take the fly. Oh sure I like to get pictures as much as the next guy and I do some cussing when I choke on a big Bow and set the hook too early. Regardless of whether I hook the trout or not my heart rate still goes up a few notches, my hands get shaky and my knees feel a little weak.

I guess that is why I return to the Chosen River to fish with the Duncans at least once each year. Because the Duncans specialize in small groups space is limited. If you are interested in fishing for Leopard Rainbows and nine other species with the Duncans you should contact them soon. My advice is to watch out or it will get in your blood. That once in a lifetime trip will become a yearly outing.

Jim Spencer is an avid outdoorsman. He has been on 15 trips with the Duncans.