Notable Nome was just as wonderful as always this year. The really, really, big grayling were just waiting for us in the lovely little Niukluk River right outside the lodge. Even though the water was a little high at first, that didn't stop them from eagerly taking our nymphs and dry flies everywhere we beached the boat.
Everyone had a bit of learning to do on how to use the wading sticks during our first afternoon but they quickly mastered the slow and careful water-walking that made the stick an indispensable part or their fishing gear. After that, there was absolutely no stopping them as they successfully moved up and down the river pursuing rising fish. With tips from Tom, they practiced and practiced how to lift the fish up for a photo with the dorsal fin unfurled and got some pretty good pictures in the process.
Nan caught her very first grayling (also her very first fish on a dry fly) along one of our very favorite runs. An 18-inch beauty! After that it was hard to get her to try any other fly. Both Sherry & Lisa had fished for grayling with me before, and they had fish after fish after fish, no matter what fly we were using. Doubles & even triples happened over and over again.
Our first night's dinner was a fantastic bison stroganoff that Tom's wife, BJ prepared for us with meat from a bison she'd successfully harvested. What a great cook she is! There's always homemade bread, rolls & deserts in addition to the best broccoli salad in the state! We also feasted on a baked sockeye salmon dish that had us all asking for seconds and her famous musk-ox stew that we can never get enough of.
As often happens, the Chernobyl Ant proved to be one of the primo flies of the trip. Skated across the surface of the water to create a wake, everyone had the fish fighting with each other to see who could nail the fly the quickest. Large fish and small fish alike simply went nuts over the ants. By the end of the trip, my ant box was nearly empty!!
Of course, elk-hair caddis flies were the other standout flies, as they almost always are. They are the dry fly that I tie the most of every winter in anticipation of this trip. Practicing to achieve the dead-drift that is required for success with a dry fly, they all got quite good at getting the fly drifting drag-free to rising fish. Quite a few 18, 19, and even 20 inch fish were the result.
For a change of scene we went chum salmon fishing one morning, and within minutes of getting out of the boat, everyone was hooked up thanks to Tom taking us to one of his favorite chum spots. Up and down the bank we wandered casting to dozens & dozens of striped-up chums that we could see moving along up-river. They weren't keep able, but they sure were fun to catch. Surprisingly, we saw almost no pink salmon this year. Drying rack after drying rack we passed on the river was empty of cut fish. Tom and other local folks were quite concerned about their absence.
As usual, it was awfully hard to leave such a grayling-heaven. Besides the fish, Tom & BJ's gracious hospitality makes Alaska Northwest Adventures one of our very favorite trips each summer. We headed back to Nome and a fabulous Bering-Sea crab dinner before boarding the plane for Anchorage. We'll definitely be going back next year!!