Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arctic Dreams

Years ago, I read Barry Lopez's book Arctic Dreams, and that began a fascination with the arctic that still persists. It hasn't helped to hear all of the incredible stories from returning fishermen, and to see that look in their eyes as they describe a trip of a lifetime. I hope (know) that someday I will make the journey north, but for now I must be content with the small bits of the arctic I can find here in Montana.

Montana does offer a unique arctic-like angling experience that can be found nowhere else in the lower 48 states. We are home to a native and wild population of fluvial Arctic Grayling. This beautiful salmonid graces some of our rivers and streams, but is unfortunately struggling to survive. The fish should be protected under the ESA, but the USFWS recently released its decision saying that listing is "warranted but precluded." Seems like I've heard that one before. For more information about this check out BHWC Grayling Report. The stronghold for this species in the state is without a doubt the Big Hole River, but it can also be found in the upper Ruby River and it has been stocked into some mountain lakes.

I had caught grayling out of mountain lakes before, but I truly desired to pursue the native fluvial strain in their original range. My frequent fishing companion, Will (111 Degrees West) also had similar ambitions so we set out on a journey to a high mountain valley drainage that still contains native fish. Since my experience with grayling up to this point was only in lakes, I was prepared to cast dry flies and expected near suicidal responses from the fish. As I worked up the stream, however, nothing would rise or flash and you could have almost convinced yourself that there were no fish around. I can honestly say that it was very different than fishing for them in a lake. These wild fish were wary and held tight to in-stream structure. They were not interested in a dry fly, and you had to put a nymph enticingly close to get them to swirl out in a brilliant flash of silver and blue. We slowly began to figure out the nuances of the fishery, and pretty soon we were catching fish out of every hole. Most of the fish were about 12" or so, but I did manage one larger fish of 16" with a striking split dorsal fin. By far my best grayling ever and I was lucky to have the professional camera lens of Will nearby to get some great images of this piece of my arctic dream.

1 comment:

  1. Nice shots of some beautiful fish! One of these days I'll get one...