They’re small. Let’s get that out of the way from the get-go. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game calls any grayling over 18″ a trophy. To be sure, grayling are dwarfed by the giant kings, fat silvers and slab rainbows in the Kanektok and Arolik Rivers.
So why do we like grayling? They’re beautiful, they love dry flies, they’re a great application for light tackle, and they can actually be…selective!
On the one hand, there are plenty of stories of grayling eating mouse patterns, or Cherynobyl Ants, or Stimulators, or Caddis Patterns, or Q-Tips. Although there are very few abundant hatches in Western Alaska, grayling just love eating dry files.
On the other hand, there are stories like one told by yours truly about grayling fishing from a few years back. Out with guide Marsh McComb and Gary Thompson of Seattle fly fishing retail fame, we encountered some grayling rising in a seam on the Arolik. Great, we thought– we’ll just throw out whatever dry fly we’ve got left over in our pocket, and catch us some grayling. So we presented an elk hair caddis, and then a Royal Wulff, and then a stimulator, and then a little green stonefly, all of which were refused by the grayling in a manner that could only be described as arrogant. We had no other classic dry flies along that day, so in a fit of creativity, Marsh whipped out a Sharpie and colored that little green stonefly black. Sure enough…fish on.
It was a great way to spend half an hour. The fish was fat and beautiful, and in our Western Alaska where fishing can sometimes be a little too easy, it was nice to have to work for it for a change.
So when you’re packing for that trip to Western Alaska, go ahead and throw in your 4 weight and a few Parachute Adams. Show a few dry flies to a couple of grayling – it’s well worth your time.