How About Something New?

How About Something New

“RD with an average sized Arctic grayling from the Beaulieu River in the Northwest Territories”

Okay, I guess that’s kind of a stupid title for a fishing piece. Confusing maybe too. When I say “new,” I don’t mean a new type of fish that was recently discovered by a group of scientists somewhere. But, the fish I’m referring to might be something new for you… in fact, it probably would be. The Arctic grayling is something that most people simply don’t get a chance to fish for. And, what a shame!

Back when I was producing my fishing and hunting series, I was spoiled friggin’ rotten! I travelled to places that I only dreamed of when I was a kid. I remember watching Red Fisher catch Arctic grayling on his fishing show and then he and his buddies would talk about the footage at “Scuttlebutt Lodge.” And, back in 2003, I caught my first one at Cree River Lodge in northern Saskatchewan. Most regions of northern Manitoba through northern Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories are home to the Arctic grayling. And, if they are present, they are normally very plentiful. I once caught around 120 in a single day. I honestly lost count.

Arctic grayling are a great fighting fish, even though they are quite small compared to some species. A “good one” would go around two pounds, but they do get into the four and five pound range. The world record is 5 lbs, 15 ounces and that fish was caught in the Northwest Territories back in 1969. (Thanks, Google!) Most however, will come in at less than a foot long. They have a huge dorsal fin and when they go, they really go! Often living in fast water, especially medium current flows in rivers and streams, they are powerful for their size and will give your fishing rod and good run for its money.

My favorite way to catch “grayling” is with a fly rod. Something around the 4 weight size is about right, although, if you’re fishing in an area where there are typically larger fish, I’d haul out a 6 weight. Leaders in the 3X or 4X range should suffice in most cases. Grayling hit dry flies like it’s their last meal and I’m not even kidding. Anything dry that floats high in about # 12 – 14 would work. A Black Knat, a Humpy or a March Brown… anything really. They’ll also hit small streamers, wet flies and nymphs, but come on… is there anything cooler or more rugged than seeing your fish rise for your fly? I say no!

How About Something New

“Arctic grayling simply love meals on the surface!”

If you’re not into fly fishing, a simple in-line spinner like a Mepps Black Fury will catch grayling all day long. I use a 6 ½ foot medium – light action rod with a small reel spooled with simple, but soft, 6 pound test monofilament. Again, grayling are not fussy when it comes to spinners. Small spoons work great too. Most times the water you’ll be fishing in will be less than four feet deep, so you normally don’t need any additional weight on your line to get your spoon or spinner down deep enough. Plus, grayling will gladly come up for a meal, or for something they think is a meal. Very small minnow baits work well too.

“Okay, that’s great there, Rugged Dude, but how in the hell is a guy like me supposed to fish for grayling when I have to travel to the very northern reaches of Canada to find them?” Very good question, Mr. Reader. I agree… grayling are not accessible to most people, but if you can take a trip to where they are present, do it. Most times, grayling are considered a “bonus fish” on some trips. Many lodges that offer fishing for big pike and lake trout offer side trips for these little acrobats, but I’d go all the way to the Northwest Territories just to fish for them. They are an excellent sport fish. But, don’t ask me what they taste like… I’ve never eaten one. I’ve been told they taste a bit like a whitefish, if that gives you anything to go by…

One word of caution – Arctic grayling are not very tough, meaning they die quickly once you’ve landed one. So, if catch and release is your thing, don’t fart around. Remove the hook, take a quick picture if you want to, then get it back. Reviving may take a minute or so even with fish that were not engaged in battle for very long.

How About Something New

“The mighty Beaulieu River, home to way too many grayling to count.”

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