Nearly everyone hearing about Rainbow Bay Resort jumps to the conclusion the lodge’s namesake is the resident fish taken right off the end of the dock. Not so. The next obvious thought, still about fishing, is the lodge’s proximity to native rainbow waters. Wrong again. The name has nothing to do with fishing.

Fishing the Iliamna River out of Rainbow Bay Resort, Brett Huber’s bait hit bottom and started to drift. Unlike earlier drifts, this one began to move directly toward the fisherman. He cranked his reel to take up the slack in the line. Directly in front of him, with only 12 feet still out, the line tightened. Now, the business end of the line took off for deep water, the rest of the line following, making fisherman’s music with the reel. Brett was sure he had a red. In the second his mind took to decide it was a sockeye, 40 feet of line was peeled off the reel.

Without warning, the end of the line reversed, and began moving back toward the angler. Then, in typical rainbow fashion, 10 feet from Brett, the fish broke the surface, twisting, turning, and shaking to dislodge the hook. With the knowledge that the fish was a rainbow and twice as big as the last one he had just released, his heart pumped faster, and his cold hands began to sweat.

All his senses were alert, and his fishing skill was brought out. The rainbow made run after run, jump after jump. It had missed escaping on the first try, more by fisherman’s good fortune than skill, and now Brett was in the lead. Twenty minutes after it began, Brett was holding for the camera the largest rainbow trout he had ever caught.

The release was performed with almost sacred ritual. It’s not every day a fisherman is granted the opportunity to overcome man’s ancient desire to kill for food and release a trophy back to the rainbow gods of the lake.

He had been to the mountain. He was on a high. For now, anything less than an 8-pound rainbow would be a comedown. Knowing that every cast would desecrate the experience, Brett put away his equipment, sat on shore with his face directly into the dying wind, and pondered the moment.

Breaking through the clouds over the mountains to the west, sunlight burst across Lake Iliamna with searchlight-like rays, lighting up the hills to the east of Rainbow Bay. Light rain had replaced the wind-driven downpour of the morning. Moisture-laden air and horizontal beams of the setting sun combined to produce a ground-to-ground rainbow frame over the lodge. Mother Nature had confirmed the true reason for the name of this part of Lake Iliamna, and why the sign on the lodge reads Rainbow Bay.