Every year our trip to Nome for Arctic grayling fishing seems to get better and better, and this year was no exception. Huge runs of pink salmon resulted in thousands of salmon in the river, and grayling that were just hanging out around them waiting for the bigger fish to lay their eggs.
Looking down through the crystal clear water, you could easily differentiate the dark grayling from the pinks, whose white bellies gave them away at every turn. Not many salmon were actively spawning yet, so the grayling kept feeding on dry flies and nymphs. Parachute Adams and Royal Wulff’s seemed to be the preferred dry fly patterns, with a double dropper of Czech nymphs heading up the nymph fishing possibilities.
Everyone caught lots of grayling in our favorite spot on the Niukluk River with both dry flies and nymphs, with the most excitement occurring when a pink and aqua-spotted fish rose gracefully to sip the fly with hardly any disturbance of the water. Sometimes the huge dorsal fin that grayling are noted for appeared above the surface just as the fish took a fly. Other times the gleaming fish arched out above the water and sipped the offering on the way down. We couldn’t get enough of seeing that!
We also had phenomenal pink salmon fishing!! Rigging up the 8-wt fly rods instead of the 5-wt gear we’d been using for the grayling, we wore-out our arms catching pink after pink on bright, pink flies. The salmon were more than cooperative. We could see them chasing a drifting fly right through the throngs of other fish. Yes, we had some fish caught in the dorsal fin, but we carefully released them along with all the fish caught in the mouth.
We went back to the lodge absolutely pooped each day, but the fishing was worth every bit of stress or strain anyone experienced. Tom and BJ Gray, the owners of the lodge, Alaska Northwest Adventure Lodge(www.akadventure.com), host us year after year, and we really enjoy their hospitality. Tom, a renowned hunting and fishing guide, knows every single inch of the river and never fails to put us over fish. BJ is the renowned chef, presenting us with everything from unbelievable musk-ox stew to an incredible sockeye salmon casserole that we can’t get enough of.
The lodge is right on the river so we have a good view of the boats of the residents of Nome and nearby villages such as White Mountain as they head back and forth to their fish-camps along both the Niukluk and the Fish rivers. This year the water was so warm that BJ and a couple of our group actually went swimming out in front in the evening.
Our wildlife sightings were also exceptional this year. On our trip to the camp after arriving in Nome, we were delighted to see four immature hawks standing in the nest on the side of a cliff getting ready to fledge. Two immature eagles kept us company every day with their presence and their flying practice. We were unable to determine whether they were bald or golden eagles.
We seldom see the bears in that area on the river (although they are definitely present), but this year we saw five! One emerged from the bushes just below us on the river on our second day, and another went loping across a gravel bar and making a splashing, wet, path coming out of the river on the other side a day later. Then, on the ride back to Nome we spotted a sow and two cubs on the other side of the small creek that flows just below the road. Mom took the little ones up the hill and into the brush when she spotted us.
We also saw Musk-ox on both the trip to the camp and on the way back, to Nome . A small group of about ten or so was on a small hill very close to Nome on our outbound trip, and then, standing right by the edge of the road were animals on both sides of the road on the way back. They are thriving in the Nome area these days.
Our annual Bering Sea crab dinner takes place when we are waiting for our evening flight back to Anchorage. It is always phenomenal. There are just not enough accolades for a place like Nome and it’s wonderful fishing. You’ll just have to come along with us next year and see for yourself. We’ll be waiting for you!