If you are looking for a unique fish to catch in Alaska or Canada then grayling fishing is for you. These trout-like fish have a sail-like fan for a dorsal fin and body colors that range from black, silver, gold to blue. Although the discoverers Lewis and Clark called them a “new species of white or silver trout”, grayling is often described as smelling of herb thyme. If you’re heading north this summer, here’s how to catch an artic grayling.
1. Place, place, place.
You can find these fish mainly in the northern part of North America. The highest concentrations are north of Anchorage, Alaska, and Canada, with a few concentrations living in the lower 48 states. In the continental US, they can be found in parts of the Montana River in Montana and in some lakes in Arizona and Utah, where they were stored.
2. Summertime is the fun time.
Grayling spawn in spring, so they come ready to eat in summer. These feeding machines feed on aquatic insects such as mayflies, caddis flies, stone flies, and mosquitoes. You don’t stop there as these gourmets will eat eggs that come from salmon, baitfish, and land dwellers like grasshoppers or ants. Because of the short summer season, grayling feed aggressively to gain weight for the long winter to come.
3. Grayling hit hard.
Use a combination of attractor and imitation patterns when fly fishing for grayling. Good flies for grayling are attractors such as Royal Wulffs, Chartreuse Trudes, from Yellow Humpies. Imitators like Mosquito’s, Black Gnats or Elk-Wing Caddis work well. For working below the surface, try grayling flies like wooly buggers, gold-ribbed hare’s ears, or prince nymphs. Most grayling flies are small and range from 12-16. Common Artic grayling baits are Mepps Spinner and Roostertails or Kastmaster and Al’s Goldfish Spoons. Lighter colors work better on dark days and dark colors work better on light days.
4. Light equipment works best.
If you are learning how to fly fish then this species of fish is for you. Because they are located in streams and rivers and weigh less than 5 pounds, fly fishing gear consists of 3-5 weight rods between 7 1/2 and 9 feet in length.
If you travel far north this summer, pack some grayling flies and aim for this wonderful, one of a kind fish.
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or www.thekeergroup.com.