Fishing for Kenai rainbow trout in July can require patience while at the same time be very exhilarating…and the payoffs can be HUGE. The salmon spawn is not really happening yet, the water levels are rising, and the fish are moving. How you dissect the rainbow trout mystery is going to make or break your chances at good trout fishing in July. There are two really good options south of Anchorage: Fishing the Kenai River OR fishing the small streams along the way.

What is Happening In July for Rainbow Trout

By Jeremy Anderson, Photo By Alaska Drift Away Fishing

The Gist of it

Kenai River rainbow trout fishing in July really depends on how much food is left over from last fall and winter as well as the timing of the spring migration of smolt. If the trout have no reason to leave their winter and spring feeding locations then you will find fish there. If the food is gone and all the migration of smolt is done, which is often the case by July, then it’s time to find where they are hiding. Find the food source and find the fish.

With small streams July is usually all about the bugs. From winter break up through most of the summer many different flies, bugs, and nymphs are the main target for trout, especially in June and July when there is typically not much salmon spawning activity. However, there is a salmon flesh food source that has influence on what the fish are eating that always needs to be considered on places like the Russian River which has a June run of sockeye.

The bottom line when fishing for trout in July is you need to look at your surroundings, know what their food source is, and then target those specific spots.

Where To Target

On the Kenai River the July fishery is changing daily. Most years the fish are moving to summer feeding grounds so that will be our focus. From early July until the sockeye season gets underway, you will find trout in locations that food will flow into but where the trout do not have to exert lots of energy. So pocket water, slower moving water, back eddies, and below islands is a good start. The trout will move around from the easy water into the fast water trying to locate food throughout the day. Just because you go through a hole and don’t catch doesn’t mean the trout aren’t close by. Once the sockeye season gets underway then the feast for the trout begins. If you see sockeye anglers fishing it is safe to assume there will be food around! Some people take their fish home and clean them but most anglers are going to filet and release before they leave their fishing spot. Depending on the day trout can be found downstream from fish cleaning zone or even directly in it!

On small streams the bottom line is fishing everything! From the deep pools to the flats to the rock piles and eddy lines fish hold in most places in small streams. Time of day and fishing pressure dictates if they are out in the open or if you have to cast into an undercut bank or log jam. The stream may seem big but just slow it down and fish a variety of water types and you will find where the fish are for the day. I always start with a nice deep run ifit is a nymph or a fast, shallow flat if I have a dry fly on.

What To Use

On the Kenai River if the fish are still in winter and spring feeding locations then leaches could still work through mid July. If the fish have moved to look for food then beads and flesh flies are going to be the ticket. Once the red salmon anglers start discarding all their salmon carcasses then you have to figure out what is best to use for the day. Once again beads and flesh flies are your best bet. Try different sizes and colors of both beads and flesh flies until you match the hatch. You will find that there are presentations that catch lots of fish and there are options that catch big fish so don’t be shy to switch it up!

On small streams my favorite fishing in July is dry fly fishing! The nymph fishing still can produce awesome days but quite often the late evening dry fly session will provide the best results of the day. Many times I will nymph fish during the day and keep my eyes open for the hatch starting to happen. If nymphs and dry flies are not working then micro flesh can also be the golden ticket. In Alaska we can get away with using size 8-14 nymphs and dry flies quite often. I will start with a stimulator most days or then go to a caddis or stone fly. If the bigger flies are not desired for the day then don’t be afraid to go even smaller!

Tying it Together

So if you want to really know where, when, and what to use for fishing for trout in July you need to do your homework and put your time in on the water. Whether you are fishing any of the numerous small streams south of Anchorage or you are fishing the mighty Kenai River, pull all the clues from the previous season, winter, and spring and it will help you know what the trout are doing for early summer and into July. Once the sockeye season starts locate the new food source and you will find the trout. Above all be creative, have fun out there, and good things will happen.


Jeremy Anderson co owns and guides for Alaska Drift Away Fishing.  You can contact him at or visit their website at