Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

Grayling of the Boreal


The fish were pretty scarce, even though my fishing partner Jess and I were quite a ways back into the boreal. It had taken the better part of an hour trucking down oil well roads to get to our jumping off point, and then it was still a hike to get to the stream. All the pools close to our access point were blanking out which is often the case when it comes to grayling. We kept moving, pool to pool, casting flies and a size 1 Panther Martin spinner. Then around that magic 500 meter mark, it happened. The fish were there, and the pools were full of happy, hungry grayling. This happens way too often to be a coincidence. In many of the streams there is a general lack of grayling close to access points, but take a half hour walk upstream or down, and most assuredly the secrets of that ribbon of water will open up.

Then around that magic 500 meter mark, it happened

Then around that magic 500 meter mark, it happened

Catching grayling is very straight forward, and I would say the most effective lure for them is a fly. The wonderful thing about grayling is that they really are not that particular about what fly they’ll go after. As long as the fly looks buggy, it will generally do the trick. My personal favourites are the bead head nymphs and a size 10 is my number one choice, followed closely by a similar sized bead head pheasant tail nymph. This may seem like a big fly, but most grayling will hit it straight up with no muss or fuss.

most grayling will hit it straight up with no muss or fuss.

most grayling will hit it straight up with no muss or fuss.

When I fish little streams that are easily negotiated, a light action spinning rod is all I need. I tie on the bead head nymph and flick it into promising pools. If the streams are a little bigger some casting is required and I’ll attach a dime sized bobber, suspend the nymph a foot or two below it and cast to the head of the pool. Sometimes the grayling will even eat the bobber which is kinda fun to watch but most often the bobber will dart under hard and fast on the first drift. The really cool thing is if I miss the strike, I cast the rig right back and more often than not it will give it another go giving me a second chance.

Sometimes the grayling will even eat the bobber

Sometimes the grayling will even eat the bobber

At times you will encounter a hatch happening which provides the challenge of trying to match the hatch. Quite honestly, if I have a caddis fly imitation, a mayfly imitation and an ant, I’m good. The caddis and mayflies are the standard insects that hatch in these streams and the ones grayling look up for. The lowly ant, that’s different beast all together. I’m figuring ants have to be one tasty critter in the eyes of a grayling because if they’re looking up and an ant comes drifting by, it’s bye bye ant. Grayling like them that much.

If an ant comes drifting by, it’s bye bye ant

If an ant comes drifting by, it’s bye bye ant

After spending the vast majority of my season last summer doing nothing but chasing grayling, I’ve come up with a few tidbits that will surely help you tag more fish. The first is that grayling are pool lovers, and if undisturbed, you’ll find them near the heads of pools were the riffles come in. The second, if this pool has a downed log for cover, there’s a very good chance you’re gonna tag one of the bigger grayling right under that log. And third, there is a stream hierarchy among fishes and generally grayling will outmuscle whitefish to the fly almost every time, so when you start catching whites, be confident that most of the grayling that were going to bite, have already done it.

There is one exception to using bead head flies when it comes to streams that have minnows and very large grayling. When grayling get big, which in Alberta puts them around 35 cm or so, some will adopt a slightly different diet. That is, they convert to eating fish. When this happens no little fly will get them to show, but throw a minnow imitating fly (don’t be shy about the size) and they will appear out of nowhere. Just be ready for the occasional bull trout to shark out and hammer your fishy fly too, but there’s obviously nothing wrong with that either.

they will appear out of nowhere

they will appear out of nowhere

Grayling are native to the boreal, and where they’re found, they’ve come to symbolize a healthy habitat. I like them because they’re a ton of fun to catch and have a very striking appearance. They are angler friendly and fly hungry, and to me this makes them a great fish to go after.

they’re a ton of fun to catch

they’re a ton of fun to catch

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List

(2) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator

(3) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(4) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(5) There’s No Place Like Home

(6) A Golden Opportunity

(7) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(8) Un-matching the Hatch

(9) Alberta Super Bugs

(10) Glass is Back

(11) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(12) Speed Kills

(13) Entering the Twilight Zone

(14) Old Man River

(15) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(16) Small stream BT fishing

(17) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(18) In The Walleye Zone

(19) Zoo Trout

(20) Fly Selection for Beginners

(21) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(22) New Waters

(23) Big Bad Burbot

(24) Looking Back

(25) Out of Africa

(26) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(27) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(28) The Browns of Autumn

(29) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(30) Walleye Town

(31) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(32) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(33) Going With The Flow

(34) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(35) Swinging The Fences

(36) A View From The Aerie

(37) Dixieland Delight

(38) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(39) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(40) Montana's Cool Missouri

(41) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(42) Toothy Critters

(43) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(44) Top Ten Flies

(45) Northern Exposure

(46) Home Water Lessons

(47) Chicken Of The Sea

(48) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(49) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(50) Keep It Up!

(51) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(52) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(53) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(54) Hawg Holes

(55) Saltwater Salmon

(56) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(57) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(58) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(61) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(62) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(63) Fall Walleye

(64) Wet Flies

(65) Versatility the Key to Success

(66) Grayling of the Boreal

(67) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(68) Size Matters

(69) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(70) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(71) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(72) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(73) The Point Of It All

(74) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(75) Fall Fly Fishing

(76) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(77) Big River, Big Fish

(78) Bottom Bonanza

(79) Fishing Small Flies

(80) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(81) Four Seasons of the Bow

(82) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(84) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(85) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(86) Edge Walleye


(88) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(89) Four Corners – Four Waters

(90) Chasing Pothole Trout

(91) Springtime Stoneflies

(92) The Torrents of Spring

(93) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(94) Bust Them With Bait

(95) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(96) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(97) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(98) Terrestrials

(99) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(100) Rocky Mountain High

(101) Reading the clues

(102) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(103) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(104) Fly Fishing 101

(105) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(106) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(107) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(108) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(109) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(110) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(111) Trust Your Electronics

(112) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(113) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(114) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(115) Walleye can be Humbling

(116) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(117) Winter Flyfishing

(118) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(119) Hot Fall Pike Action

(120) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(121) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(122) Frequently Asked Questions

(123) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(124) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(125) Deep Water Perch

(126) Post Spawn Brookies

(127) A Fisher's Life

(128) The River's Last Stand

(129) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(130) Coho on the Coast

(131) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(132) Summer in the Mountains

(133) Peak Walleye Season

(134) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(135) Last Ice Rainbows

(136) The Burbot Event

(137) Tackle Matching

(138) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(139) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(140) The Lure of Brook Trout

(141) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(142) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(143) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(144) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(145) The Vesatile Plug

(146) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(147) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(148) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(149) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(150) Daily Fish Migrations

(151) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(152) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(153) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(154) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(155) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(156) The Fun in Ultra Light

(157) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(158) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(159) Never Stop Learning

(160) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(161) Jigging through the Ice

(162) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(163) Rainbows on Ice

(164) The Season of Ice Begins

(165) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(166) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(167) Facts On Cats

(168) West Coast Adventure

(169) June Walleye Frenzy

(170) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(171) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(172) "Northern Exposure"

(173) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(174) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(175) Man Overboard