There are certain circles of fly anglers that consider the Arctic Grayling one of the most underrated sport fish in Alaska. Other groups of fly anglers don’t give it the time of day. Your point of view on this fish may vary but, every angler that has ever encountered one agrees that the raw beauty and colors of the grayling are hardly ever captured in a photo. The flank spots, turquoise fin stripes and subtle pink hues never seem to reflect their full brilliance. In addition, the ability to hook an arctic grayling over twenty inches seems to elude most anglers. Truth us, if you aren’t legitimately fishing for these prehistoric age grayling, you will most likely never encounter one.
Let’s back up a moment, I realize that the likelihood of any fly angler waking up one morning and deciding to pay thousands of dollars just to go to Bristol Bay for trophy grayling fishing is highly improbable. However, if you had booked a trip with Rapids Camp Lodge for the purpose of fly fishing for giant rainbow trout, dinosaur arctic char or even elephantine king salmon, wouldn’t you want to know that adding a twenty inch arctic grayling to your list of personal fly fishing accomplishments was an option? Most anglers do want to know all their options.
Upon deciding to pursue this quarry, we will fly out to a handful of remote destinations. Some of these locales are only known to a small number of guides in the region. Fishing for trophy arctic grayling is akin to spring creek fishing in Montana. Delicate dry fly presentations, careful line management and stealthy approaches are not just recommended, it is completely essential for success. Arctic grayling grow slowly after their second year of life. A twenty inch grayling could be as much as 20 years old. This produces a little more fish IQ than some of the their neighbors. If your presentation doesn’t look right, they simply will not eat. It can be as maddening as a spring creek brown trout sipping size 42 midges in August.
As a member of the whitefish family, most grayling would be properly considered bottom feeders. While they do capitalize on the thousands of salmon eggs drifting down the creeks, they are some of the most opportunistic surface feeders in Bristol Bay. The guides at Rapids Camp Lodge prefer fishing dry flies for the biggest grayling over every other fishing method. The hook set seems to be the most problematic for majority of fly anglers. A grayling’s mouth is situated on the bottom of their face, so we have to give the fish time to rise, completely eat the fly and then start the descent back down before the angler makes the hook come tight. A fast aggressive hook set will typically fail no more miserably than trying to house train pigs using Braille. This is a game of patience and focus.
The gear we use in pursuit of big grayling is exactly the same gear you would use on any western or Patagonian spring creek. 9’ 5/6wt fly rods, 3X/4X leaders with tippet of the same sizes. We really never need to go smaller than 4X. It’s not fair to the fish to play them that long anyway. A good presentation on 3X will usually do the trick.
If you have questions regarding gear or trip preparation for trophy arctic grayling, feel free to contact any of our staff. We are always willing to help make your vacation the very best it can possibly be.
Thanks for reading!
Head Guide Rapids Camp Lodge
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