Nome is the home of the largest Arctic grayling you’ll find on any of our Alaska trips. Year after year they prove to be truly spectacular!! This year was no exception.
We landed in Nome on an Alaska Airlines jet and were met by Steve, our van driver for the 75- mile trip to the settlement of Council and the beginning of our trip to AK Northwest Adventures camp. Despite the fact that it was cloudy, we spotted a small herd of musk-ox near the road just about fifteen miles from town. “Bachelor bulls,” Steve said. They moved away too quickly for us to get photos. We also saw numerous bird species including both a snowy owl and a gray owl chasing the rabbits that seemed to be everywhere. Just before reaching our destination, a large, red fox wit a beautiful white-tipped tail ran back and forth across the road in front of us chasing ground squirrels.
Eddie, our boat drive, quickly loaded up our gear and we were on our way. The lodge was ready & waiting for us with a hearty lunch, which disappeared in short order as we got on our waders.
We started out at a spot on the river where Tom, the camp owner recommended, and the fish had apparently been counting the minutes until we arrived, as folks were hooked-up immediately on several different dry flies. Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, and Royal Wulffs all brought success. Never having seen Arctic grayling before, they were absolutely dazzled by the enormous, spotted, aqua dorsal fin that this fish is famous for. They never stopped comparing the colors and size of the afternoon’s fish until we departed for supper.
The following day we headed out to a different area of the river to give terrestrials a try. The grayling were certainly up for that!! They chased, they grabbed, they even jumped completely over the top of the fly, much to the delight of the anglers. Black, Chernobyl ants seemed to be carrying a sign that sign “take me, take me,” and we obliged. Did we ever!! Several 20-inch fish presented themselves for pictures as did others “only” about nineteen inches in length.
Czech nymphing was another way we enjoyed hooking grayling at a different spot on the river. The water was just the right depth and speed for practicing this European method of grayling fishing. Using both the correct flies and the correct technique they managed to hook two eager fish at the same time on several occasions. (Fishing with two hooks is legal in Alaska except in water designated “fly fishing only.”) Once we even managed to land both fish!! It proved extremely difficult to get a picture of them both at the same time, however. (Stay tuned for my up-coming article in Fish Alaska Magazine on Czech nymphing.)
Over one of BJ’s fabulous dinners one night we began talking about all the different ways to catch grayling, and I learned that no one had ever fished poppers for bass or other warm-water fish. When I told them that grayling love poppers, and that I just happened to have some with me, they couldn’t wait to try them.
Fishing a lovely little run that was perfect for “popping” it didn’t take long for them to see how making the fly “gurgle” drove the fish absolutely crazy! They fished yellow ones, they fished black ones, and they fished green ones, they fished every different type of these little flat-faced bass favorites that I had with me. Their whooping and hollering could be heard up and down the river.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and our trip was no exception. We said goodbye to Tom & BJ & also to Eddie when he dropped us back in Council where Steve was waiting. We spent about an hour back in Nome where everyone wanted to see the famous burled arch under which mushers in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race must pass as they finish the race. After that, fresh red-crab, caught just that morning in the Bering Sea, was on the menu for dinner before we headed for the plane.
Whew! It was quite a trip!!! Next year will be just as good, I promise! Come on along and see for yourself!