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Arctic Grayling

Arctic Grayling by Ken McBroom
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The Arctic Grayling is a non-anadromous salmonid fish which inhabits subarctic and Arctic region streams of North America and Europe. Grayling emerge from their winter homes to spawn in early spring. Three and four year old Grayling move into shallow water to spawn as the males take on a brilliant display of colors in order to impress the females. Grayling do not build nests for their eggs; instead the male wraps his huge dorsal fin around the back of the female as she drops a few thousand eggs into the water. The male releases milt and the fertilized eggs are carried by the current to the bottom of the stream and buried in the sand. Incubation is two to three weeks. The newly born Grayling eat algae and very small aquatic insects throughout the summer reaching a size which will allow them to survive the harsh winter.

Grayling prefer clear water streams and during the short summers, feed aggressively on aquatic and terrestrial micro-invertebrates. Grayling have been found to occupy the same section of stream, for this short feeding time, year after year. This behavior is believed to be due to the fact that searching for other places to feed would expend too much energy and time and so they return each summer to essentially the same feeding lanes.

The Grayling is an excellent sport fish. However; even with its beauty, acrobatic displays and its willingness to aggressively take a dry fly, the Grayling tends to wane in popularity among its many peers swimming within the same waters. This is actually good news to the angler who wants to enjoy a peaceful day fishing with little or no competition from other anglers. Here are a few noted observances by anglers and biologist that could be of interest to you.

The Grayling is a very aggressive feeder and will chase anything that looks like food. Smaller Grayling, due to severe competition with other Grayling, will actually leave the water to grab an unsuspecting flying insect. The larger Grayling, on the other hand, has little competition as he controls his feeding lane. In order to conserve energy the large Grayling will move as little as possible to align itself with the food drifting its way and rarely chases its food like the smaller fish. Keep this in mind when looking for trophy Grayling as the action provided by the smaller Grayling in the more shallow open water may be enough for you to forget the large fish lying in the deeper pools waiting for your offering.

Small flies and spinners work great for Grayling. Almost any color will do. Be aware of the Grayling roll when dry fly fishing. When taking a bug on the surface the Grayling will first roll over the bug, or fly, in what seems to be an attempt to drown or just submerge the morsel before devouring it. Just keep this in mind as you will tend to set the hook on the roll before the Grayling has the fly in its mouth resulting in a miss and a duck as you try to miss the fly whizzing back at you at super sonic speeds.

Although the Grayling is not the most popular fish in Alaska, it is only because there has to be a favorite and with the many different species available in Alaska the Grayling just happens to be one of the least sought after. So if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy some fast pace action, look for the Grayling to fill the bill.

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