Quest for Arctic Grayling

We spent the next week or so in Boise after our time in White Clouds. We were not expecting the heat in Boise. Most days were approaching or well into the triple digits. It is a dry heat, but 100 is hot no matter how you look at it. We were itching to get into the mountain backcountry again and into it’s cooler temperatures.

I’m not going to say where we went exactly. It was a very quiet and out of the way place that took some research to find. It’s not that I don’t want anybody to know about it. It is just I don’t want everybody to know about it. I will tell anyone how to get there and where it is that asks, but I’m not going to just put it on the internet. Plus, finding these places on our own is part of the fun, right?

I will say we went up a drainage from alpine lakes in Sawtooth National Recreation Area, about a half an hour south of Stanley ID. These lakes are not named and are known only by their numbers. We are hiking to them to catch some arctic grayling. Laura and I have never even seen one in real life, and we can’t resist getting to catch these weird fish.

Arctic grayling belong to the Salmonidae family. Trout, salmon, freshwater whitefish, and chars are also in this family. They are widespread throughout the arctic and can be found in some high mountain lakes in the lower 48. I did a lot of research to find a place were we could hike in a try to see one of these amazing fish.

The hike starts off on a maintained trail, but after a few miles we had to cross-country hike to the lake we would base camp at. I don’t know why, but Laura and I had a hard time with this hike. I think we were just having a bad day, but the 6 mile 2,000 foot hike up the first day was pretty rough. By the time we got to our base camp lake I was done for. So, after we setup camp, we spent the evening lazily fishing our camp lake.

We would use this lake as a base camp and day hike to the others like we had done before. There really was some cross-country parts to get to the upper lakes, and we were very happy to have our GPS app, onXmaps. Even with the GPS, we were cliff-out a few times. If anyone wants to checkout onXmaps, here is the link. It really is a very good way to find your way around.

This drainage system had many lakes in it, and most of them held arctic grayling. There was one lake that we really wanted to fish, so that was the goal. We finally got to a cliff and looked down on the lake. The problem was how to get down to the lake. After some exploring, we found a way down the cliff face. The whole way down, the hike back up was on our minds.

Looking down at the lake.

All that hard work and effort was paid back in spades. As we descended on the lake, we could see how clear the water was and the fish in it. I wasted no time getting a fly on the water. Before I knew it I was holding an arctic grayling. The camera doesn’t pick up the blueness of the fish. They have an almost metallic blue tint to them. The camera does show there oversized dorsal fin. What a beautiful fish.

The camera doesn’t show the true colors of the fish, but it did do a good job showing the color of the water. It was so weird to be this high up in the mountains and be fishing in water that looked like it belonged on some tropical beach. It looked very inviting, and Laura did get in. The sun can be very intense at these elevations, but that water was COLD. At least that is what Laura lead me to believe. I stayed dry after hearing her deal with the water’s temperature.

Laura warming back up after a dip.
My fishing view.

We had this lake all to ourselves all day. We did run into one other couple at another lake on our way back to camp. What a place this was. I feel very fortunate to have had the time that we did. Places like this will give me an energy like no other. Their memory will keep me moving when the going gets too tough on the trail or in everyday life. I hope you all have the opportunity to have your batteries recharged in places like these soon.

While, we will have some more adventures to share soon. Not a bad place to summer. We will tell you all about it.

Until next time…



3 thoughts on “Quest for Arctic Grayling

    1. Thank you, and we play it as safe as we can in the wild. We are exploring Portland Oregon this week. Cities always seem to have more danger than the wilderness to me. Statistically speaking we are in more danger driving to the trailhead than the time spent in the backcountry. I’m sure Jeff would agree.


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