Often during July in Alaska, where I grew up, my family would slide our jetboat into the clear waters of my home river somewhere between eight and 10 p.m. Even at that time the summer sun lit up the sky so my dad would teach me to pilot the boat on our way to a favorite grayling spot. We would plow through caddis clouds that looked like thunderheads, knowing soon we’d be throwing big dry flies at large, rising grayling.
Arctic grayling, “Thymallus arcticus”, hold a special place in my heart; my first fish was a grayling; my dad taught me to cast a fly rod to grayling; and until I was 18 years old, 99 percent of my river fishing was spent targeting them. Also, the grayling we chased in interior Alaska averaged between 16 and 20 inches, a perfect fight on a soft five-weight rod.
Grayling were, in fact, the extent of my fly-fishing experience for 18 years—consistent, productive, and a fish that I could find and catch in solitude. But they skewed my perception of fly-fishing and the skill it often requires to be successful. So, I was in for a rude awakening when I moved to Bend, Oregon in fall 2005. After purchasing my fishing license, I immediately realized two things. First, trout aren’t grayling. Second, to be productive, I couldn’t just wander around throwing a size-10 Parachute Adams on the water because those Metolious River rainbows weren’t the least interested.
Well, life continued, I finally figured out those rainbows, and I ended up in Idaho where I live now. I still return to Alaska as often as possible and I did so again last September, to fish the old spots—our homewater—for those treasured grayling with their iconic mark of the north country—their colorful dorsal fin. When I shot this image of a grayling’s dorsal fin, my mother, father, and our dog were with me.
Travis DuBoise is a longtime friend of Angler’s Tonic and one of the few people in the fly-fishing world who give much credence to grayling. Maybe for most anglers grayling are too easy. But I’ll tell you this, sometimes it’s really nice to throw dry flies to fish that aren’t as picky as those spring creek browns and rainbows. And if you don’t like grayling, it probably means you don’t spend enough time chasing steelhead. Grayling can be saviors. Here’s a bigger image to look at and thanks to Travis for sending this Tonic’s way.