Monday, September 10, 2012

Arctic Grayling, A Dry Fly Fishermen's Dream

Grayling with an aka Mormon Girl.
photo by Mia Sheppard
The Arctic Graying is the Alaskan trout and dry fly fishermen’s dream being the acceptant feeders they are. During the winter they live in deep pools under the ice and don't feed much. When the ice melts, they go into a feeding frenzy on the abundant insects such as Caddis, Mayflies, Craneflies and mosquitoes that live along the Chena River.  The Chena River is a 100-mile-long (160 km) river in the interior region of Alaska and it flows west from the Tanana River near the city of Fairbanks. The Chena River Valley has the highest density of grizzly bears in the state and an abundant run of Arctic Grayling that is a catch and release fishery. 

The Chena River
photo by Eric Petlock
She wore a pale yellow dress and when she landed on the water she danced with grace and the opportunistic grayling couldn’t resist, taking the Mormon girl for a ride.
I was told to bring mosquito patterns, so I stopped by a local fly shop and picked up a few. I also packed a box of trout flies; I so slyly inherited from Brian Silvey a few years back. This is a box of hand tied size 16 and 18 dry fly patterns such as elk hair caddis, blue wing olives and pale morning dun’s.

Grayling with an Elk Hair Caddis.
photo by Mia Sheppard
We spot a few sipping grayling in a slow pool behind a fallen log, we try mosquitoes, nymphs and just about everything else in our fly boxes.  The one thing I had forgotten was tippet small enough to fit through a size 18 eye, I do have 8 pound maxima in my pocket because I was steelhead fishing the week before. I bum a couple feet of size 5x from my colleague, tie it on and reach for the pale yellow fly that is dressed sparse with elk hair. I make one cast up stream, as I reach to make the first strip a small mouth emerges and the fly disappears. The grayling is quickly brought in and released.

“What fly was that?” I reply, “A small yellow one, I think it’s a Yellow Sally.” I show the fly to my colleague and he says that looks like a Mormon Girl and the grayling fell for her. Not being a trout fishermen I admit, I don’t know what it is.

I’ll trade you 18 inches of tippet for a Mormon Girl.” I can’t resist that offer being I have a dozen Mormon girls and no 5X tippet. The deal is sealed and the fishing continues till dusk. The grayling have turned on to the pale yellow fly, we can’t keep them off. This is a dry fly fishermen's dreams, willing trout and surface flies.