There’s a modest fishing lodge on the shores of Black Lake, simply exterior of Stoney Rapids, Sask., the place the lake dumps into the Fond du Lac River. I visited some 16 years in the past, proper across the summer season solstice when the times had been lengthy and sunny.

And the black flies. Jesus, the black flies.

However that’s an occupational hazard, proper? For those who’re going to write down about fly fishing within the North Woods, it’s a must to anticipate the whole lot that comes with the North Woods. Headnets and Deet had been a small value to pay for lengthy days within the boat spent chasing large pike in the dead of night waters of Black Lake.

And we caught pike. A lot of them. However then … grayling occurred.

One night, after coming back from a full day on the lake, I wandered right down to the place Black Lake picks up some present, simply above a gnarly set of rapids that marks its brief run by means of the Fond du Lac River earlier than dumping into the a lot bigger Lake Athabasca.

Fish had been rising. I knew what they had been, however I wasn’t too terribly impressed – not after boating my first 40-inch pike on a fly earlier that day. That was an occasion, catching a registered Saskatchewan trophy fish. They write your title down within the lodge e book for that.

However with hours of daylight nonetheless forward (the solar would form of are available in for a smooth touchdown round 11:45 or so), I figured I’d make the very best of my time on the lodge. Armed with a 4-weight and a field of normal dry flies, I slowly walked the river, heading down into the brief canyon above the close by city. After a couple of minutes, I got here throughout an eddy, the place the river circled again upon itself, scouring out an enormous pool within the boreal bedrock. I sat down on a riverside rock and simply watched.

Each few seconds, the flat floor of the eddy would dimple, and I’d catch a silvery flash by means of the tannin-stained water. Grayling had been popping on absolutely anything that hit the water. And I knew that after I began casting to them, I’d begin catching them. I additionally knew that I’d hunt this river for hours and that, in some unspecified time in the future, one of many guides or the lodge proprietor would get nervous in regards to the lacking consumer they usually’d come clamoring down the river to seek out me. They usually’d discover me with a goofy, fish-drunk smile on my face and doubtless a lot farther away than I ever meant.

Grayling try this to me. I’ve in all probability walked extra miles for grayling than some other fish. Stroll, solid, catch. Smile. Stroll, solid, catch. Smile.

Lastly, after one significantly massive flashy rise, I stood and launched my dimension 14 Adams into the river atop the eddy. And it didn’t take lengthy. Possibly a full second. The fly hit the water, righted itself, after which disappeared amongst a violent splash after not one, however three foot-long Arctic grayling erupted beneath it. I grinned. I grinned large.

I launched the fish, after which proceeded to spend the subsequent hour working my means down the eddy, which could have been 100 yards lengthy. After a bit, it stopped turning into a mission to catch grayling. After in regards to the fifth 12-incher, I modified issues up and went deep, hoping {that a} bigger specimen may present up. And several other did, as I high-sticked a dimension 12 Prince Nymph by means of the present. A few fish pushed 17 inches, a authentic grayling by any measure.

However I wasn’t glad. What began out as a tentative, “do I dare begin this unending cycle” was an honest-to-God trophy hunt. I’d eliminated my little tape measure from the bowels of my sling pack and had it on the prepared for when that basically large fish determined to indicate up.

I switched out the ragged little Prince for a weighted ‘Bugger and was fishing it on the swing. My logic was easy. If any fish on this river might get their mouths round a dimension 8 Woolly Bugger, they had been value catching.

I labored the eddy for a bit, and the dimensions fee had, certainly, gone up. However I used to be shocked at what number of 14-inch grayling with their lacy fins and delicate mouths would throw warning to the wind and nail the massive streamer.

After which, simply as I used to be about to surrender on the eddy and wander downstream a bit farther, an actual toad hit the ‘Bugger on the swing. The fish thrusted from the water with an considerable leap, and I knew this was the fish I used to be after. After splashing again into the river, the massive Arctic grayling pushed into the present on the outer fringe of the eddy, a transfer that I hadn’t anticipated, and one I used to be ill-equipped to take care of, given the lightweight rod and 18 inches of 4x tippet.

I wasn’t anticipating a grayling to peel line from my reel, however with the help of the river’s swift present, this fish did precisely that. And in mere seconds, it was gone. The tippet snapped, and off went my grayling of a lifetime, together with my dimension 8 Woolly Bugger.

That was the second, I believe. That was after I doubled down. Within the years to return, I’d cowl numerous air miles seeking pike, however with a easy caveat: “Are there grayling within the streams across the lodge?” And up north, the reply is often sure. There are, certainly, grayling. Gobs of them. For pike, grayling is dinner.

Since that fateful go to to Saskatchewan all these years in the past, I’ve managed to catch grayling all through the north, from Manitoba and Alberta to British Columbia and the Yukon. A handful of years in the past, I spent the higher a part of three months in Alaska, together with two weeks above the arctic circle chasing grayling in tundra rivers and streams. Only a few years in the past, I caught my first Yellowstone Nationwide Park grayling within the Gibbon River, about three hours from residence — the Nationwide Park Service is attempting like hell to reintroduce the native fish that after marked the southernmost extent of their vary.
And all of it variety begins prefer it did that first time on the Fond du Lac. I hesitate to make that solid. However I do know I’ll do it. I do know I’ll catch fish. And I do know I’ll go from catching grayling, usually at will, to prowling the wild water for greater fish. And nonetheless greater fish.

And after I snap out of it, I’ll be miles from the lodge or the camper. I’ll be out of water and snack bars and I’ll be sporting that far-off grin that solely comes round as soon as in an amazing whereas, after I’ve ventured far sufficient away from the whole lot else and the place it’s simply me and the grayling.

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