Once again, the Nome trip outdid itself and came through with dozens and dozens of gorgeous Arctic grayling in the 18-20-inch range, plus just as many or more pink salmon, and even some large pike to round out the options. It was great to have so many choices, but the grayling were still the stars of the expedition.
Our drive to the camp enabled us to see musk-ox close up beside the road as well as a pair of golden eagle chicks in the nest, and a cow moose who spooked as we drove by. The water was very low, and our first afternoon was devoted to having everyone put to use the skills they had learned in the beginning fly fishing class. Their casting and mending quickly improved to the point that they had very cooperative grayling grabbing their nymphs. They were so excited they could hardly remember how to keep a fish tight while they reeled it in and release it correctly. What a blast!
They soon moved up to dry fly fishing and mastering the technique of casting a long leader, and getting the fly to dead drift down river. By the time we headed back to the camp for dinner, they had each landed over 20 fish! How's that for beginners' success?
The next day we took the boat up into the main river and to a tiny little tributary where the pink salmon were absolutely stacked-up like cord-wood and went to work with the 8-wt rods and reels. These were fish in the 5-6 lb range, so more work was required to get them in. But, there certainly was no problem in getting them to take the hook in the first place. "I've never seen so many fish in one place!" someone remarked. "No wonder we can get so many hook-ups."
On the way home we stopped for some more grayling fishing and this time they had the fish going crazy for ant flies with white, orange, or black rubber legs. Drifting them down over the edge of a small drop-off right where the grayling were holding certainly did the trick.
Our third day we headed to another one of our favorite grayling spots where we could fish off of both sides of an island. Now, they had to decide whether to fish with dry flies or ants, and they were getting very accomplished with either one. Doubles, doubles, doubles, and more doubles were the order of the day, with fish displaying huge, spotted dorsal fins to wow us over and over again.
After lunch that day we stopped at a wide flats area with perfect gravel for wading. Often, when the water is high and the current is strong, this spot isn't available to us, but this time the low water made it a perfect spot for pursuing both pinks and grayling. The pink salmon were beginning to dig their nests so grayling were waiting patiently behind them for some wayward salmon eggs, which they gorge on. That enables us to pick and choose which fish to target. We always catch lots of both species in situations like this.
Day #4 is usually reserved for heading out to the pike pond to do some fly fishing for these toothy critters. Some years we don't find many fish, but this year, we were in luck, and our Polarized glasses spotted fish after fish in the little back-bay where these fish hang-out. Once the gals got the hang of casting and stripping really fast so that their flies came within the cone of vision of the fish, they got hook-ups almost right away. They had to be reminded frequently not to put their hands or fingers anywhere near the mouth of the fish as we tried to get pictures. They also learned that pike are probably the slipperiest and slimiest of all the fish species.
We did a little pink salmon fishing before lunch after the pike stopped biting, and roasted hot-dogs over a beach fire right near some fresh bear-poop that kept us alert to the possibility of a 4-legged lunch guest. The afternoon found us back at the drop-off where we had scored on so highly a previous day for grayling. Besides the ants and dry flies, we also fished with a leader containing Czech nymphs and came up with two fish on the line numerous times.
The last morning was also devoted to grayling fishing, and, as usual it was incredibly difficult to tear ourselves away to meet our shuttle back to Nome. We always have fresh Bering Sea crab for dinner in a restaurant there, and it's just the frosting on the cake as we end this super trip.
Nome is definitely one of my very favorite trips. One of the gals called it "flyfishing paradise." The chance to stay with an Alaskan Native family and learn something about their culture and day to day life just adds to the fun of the trip. If you've never eaten BJ's musk-ox stew you haven't experienced the real Alaska! Come on with us next summer and see for yourself.