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Fly Fishing for Arctic Grayling

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Posted by David Lisi on

It's hard to imagine that a fish can live to be 32 years old. With a lifespan and natural beauty to boot, arctic grayling are enchanting fish to pursue on a fly rod. Landing and holding these remarkable fish with such a unique life history, makes targeting grayling in Alaska near the top of the bucket list fishing trip for serious fly anglers.

Often referred to as the "lady of the stream," arctic grayling in Alaska have been recorded up to 24 inches long and weigh over 5 lbs. Arctic grayling can be found throughout most of the state, with the exception of the Southeast, Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands - Grayling occupy the largest home range of any sportfish in Alaska.

Fly Fishing for Grayling

Lake, river and stream populations of arctic grayling can be found here in Alaska. Grayling feed mostly on insects (black flies, mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies), salmon eggs, salmon flesh and smaller fish. Some grayling have even been known to eat mice and voles.

Grayling tend to have a hierarchy of placement in a river system with older, larger adults claiming the upper reaches of river, sub-adults occupying the middle stretches and juveniles occupying the lower portions. Similar hierarchy occurs in feeding areas, with larger grayling forcefully taking over the prime feeding areas, with sub-adults and juveniles left to fight over the less-than-prime feeding spots.

Though fly fishing for grayling isn't all that complicated (since they will literally eat anything that moves), knowing the specific locations and habits of these fish will go a long way towards landing a trophy on the fly.

Many alpine lakes are home to grayling. The lakes of the Kenai Peninsula near Cooper Landing are known for their excellent, trophy-sized fish and are generally accessed by float plane or by hiking in. The Susitna, Copper, Ugashik Lake (Bristol Bay), Nome, Chena and Lake Clark drainages also hold excellent, fishable populations of trophy grayling.

Recommended Rod & Flies for Arctic Grayling

If you are pursuing arctic grayling for the first time in Alaska, be sure to bring a 3, 4 or 5 wt rod, some trusty bugs - dry flies, nymph, streamers, egg patterns and flesh patterns. A couple of my all-time favorite flies for grayling are the black gnat, hare's ear, cotton candy, meat biscuit, morrish mouse and the Jr. Schmolty - Check out the links to see the Jr. Schmolty & Meat Biscuit and how to tie the Jr. Schmolty.

Arctic grayling captivate fly anglers from all over the world. Thousands of visitors come to Alaska each summer in pursuit of these marvelous creatures and there's no reason not to make them a big part of your fly fishing trip. Whether you take a guided trip or chase them on your own, I hope you land the grayling of your dreams!

About the Author: David Lisi

Owner/Guide for Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC located in the small mountain town of Cooper Landing, Alaska where he is a year-round resident, guide, carpenter and trout bum. On any given day, you will most likely find Dave on the banks of the Kenai swinging for trout with his best friend and future wife, Jackie. Dave spent most days of his youth wading the waters of upstate New York fishing for smallmouth bass, muskie, pike and walleye. His journey to Alaska was sparked by a chance fishing trip on the Salmon River in New York with Mike Harpe, a legendary guide on the Kenai River. After the fishing day was done, Mike invited Dave to Alaska to fish the mighty Kenai River. At that time, Dave thought fishing Alaska was a pipe dream and didn't arrive in Alaska until several years later to take Mike up on his offer to fish the Kenai with him. Once in Alaska, Dave fell in love with the Kenai's mystical waters and the amazing fishing opportunities. He began his guiding career almost immediately and found a place to call home. Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC was built in early 2017 with the goal of sharing the love and passion Dave and Jackie have for the Kenai Peninsula and the fish that live there.

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