Sometimes we encounter small creatures that make us marvel at nature and her ability to design beauty with gills. One of her finest creations, in my opinion, is the species known as Arctic Grayling (Thymallus Articus) which is a very unique type of freshwater fish. Also known as the “lady of the stream” the arctic grayling is a favorite among many anglers, not because of their size but due to their distinctive and colorful features. Almost like the feathers of an exotic bird, the fin radiates beautiful colors that can easily stun any angler, especially when reflecting sunlight. Populations of grayling have been found in various parts of Northern America since the 1800’s and are native to the states of Michigan and Montana.
After hearing about a few places where these alpine unicorns hide, my buddy Jake, his dog Remy, and I decided to pick a day to scout for unicorns. It was the middle of July, which meant the grayling spawning season was almost over, but the lake inlet remained closed, denying access to all anglers to protect these easily exposed fish. Therefore, we walked along the shore towards the middle of the lake and quickly began to see other fly anglers there for the same purpose. Having arrived in the later afternoon, we took our time rigging up our rods and waited for the evening hatch to begin and the fish to start rising. Tied to the end of my leader was a #12 brown Elk Hair Caddis looking like the perfect unicorn snack. The key was to get the fly out as far as possible towards the middle of the lake, that way the fly would be out of reach from the pestering juvenile grayling and there would be a better chance at catching a substantial fish.
Before long the fly was gone, leaving behind only ripples in the water. Without much hesitation I lifted my rod, setting the hook on a 7-inch grayling. Although it was smaller than expected, the colors painted into its dorsal fin quickly made up for what it lacked in size. The blue, green, purple hues, along with hints of orange, were enough for me, and I couldn’t help but get a few shots with my camera before releasing it back into the lake. Later that month I took my cousin Lori and friend Madi to the same location so that they too could have a chance at catching their first grayling and marvel at the sheer beauty of such a captivating aquatic being. Both trips were a success and I’m thankful for the fish caught and the memories made. These underwater alpine unicorns will always hold a special place in my heart, and I look forward to future encounters with them.