Alaska Dolly Varden Fishing. Dolly Varden, Salvelinus malma, malma is actually a subspecies of an anadromous member of the salmon family, and is technically a char. The Kenai river supports both anadromous (those that travel to salt water) and lake populations of dolly varden char. Once thought to be a predator of salmon eggs, studies have shown that dollies feed actively on diseased or dead salmon eggs on the river bottom. This feeding activity prevents the diseased or dead eggs from infecting the healthy eggs within a spawning bed.
A wonderful sportfish, dolly varden are most routinely caught using single egg patterns fished behind spawning salmon. Often caught in conjunction with rainbows, these strong, hard-headed fish will bite very hard and hold the bottom rather than leap like a rainbow. They can grow to well over ten pounds and exhibit a wide range of appearances including a darker, black exterior punctuated by vibrant orange dots or a shiny silvery flank with subtle pink dots.
Their name stems from a family operated summer resort in the McCloud River area of California circa 1870, where a young girl of 15 or 16 had been reading a Charles Dickens Novel called Barnaby Rudge that included a character named Dolly Varden. Formerly known as ‘calico trout’, the girl felt the fish needed a better name and the pink dotted trout reminded her of this character’s red-spotted dress. As esteemed sportsman returned to the resort and admired their catch, she suggested why not call them “Dolly Varden?” The guests returned to their professional positions (mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area) and began calling the fish by this new name.