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Jason Rivers’ Grayling Rig

Posted on March 13 2013

Grayling Rig - Jason Rivers
Mid October on the Delta Clearwater. Photo: Will Smith

If there’s a mecca for Alaskan grayling fishing, Fairbanks has to be it!  Jason Rivers manages Big Ray’s Fly Shop in Fairbanks, and he was kind enough to put together his go-to grayling rig for us.

Thanks, Jason!

Grayling Rig Introduction

Fairbanks, Alaska would not be the first place you would find water to use a spey or switch rod – or would it?

Grayling fishing in the Interior is top notch. There are days when bringing 40-50 fish to the hand is not uncommon.  Most grayling are caught on dry flies or drifting nymphs. The average size is 10 to 18 inches with these methods.

But if you are looking for the 20 inch plus grayling…you got to go BIG!

That is where spey and switch rods come in.  I am not talking about a 14′ 9 weight spey rod, although there are places I fish those too.  Here is the rig I use when I’m targeting grayling.

The Rig

  • TFO 4/5 weight Deer Creek switch rod
  • Lamson Guru reel
  • Royal Wulff Ambush 8 wt line
  • 9 Foot Rio 5x tapered Leader
  • 2-4 Feet 6 to 8 pound tippet – I have had 18 to 20 inch grayling break 6 pound tippet
  • Super Secret white, black or olive streamer (stop by or call the shop and ask me)
  • Foam hoppers for dries – more below

The Commentary

9′ 4 weight rods are the norm in the Interior, so the TFO Deer Creek at 11 foot is a little long – but its mending capabilities make up for it. I use 20 pound backing with an arbor knot to the reel and a king sling to the Line. I really like the Ambush or Rio’s Outbound for most of my fishing. I don’t use sinktips for grayling so I do not see the need for spey line in this situation. But I am open to the idea and I am going to be trying a Airflo 360 Skagit Compact on this rig this year for bigger rivers and bigger grayling…

I keep most of my connections simple. For my line to leader I use either a king sling or a 3 turn spider hitch.  From my leader to tippet I usually use a uni to uni or blood knot. For my fly connection I either use a non-slip mono loop or a good old fashioned clinch knot.

Lets face it! Grayling are not the biggest fish on the block. But do not let that take away the fact that they are salmonids. They are voracious eaters – I have seen grayling fit things into their mouth that they have no business even looking at.  So, I’ve gone away from #16 and #18 dry flies and took some advice from my fishing brother and mentor Big Will – I now fish size 2 to 8 streamers. These streamers are sparsely tied and usually have bead, cone or lead eyes. I have even started tying small, sparse Intruder-style tubes and stinger hook patterns.


When I fish dries, I usually fish Chernobyl Ants or Hickman’s Hankey – nothing smaller than a size 12.  Grayling will attempt to “drown” these flies, so patience is key for solid hook ups.  Make sure that the fish is running away with the snack before you set the hook. With the size of flies we are using we’re limiting the chance of a deep hook set. You will want to keep a tight connection to the fly, reducing the chance of a mini monster swallowing something he should not!

When the salmon are coming in I won’t hesitate to throw on a 6mm or 8mm bead, with no indicator and a very tight connection. Typically you won’t even need split shot as grayling like drifted eggs.  With beads I use a size 4-6 hook.

Tight Lines.

When Jason is not catching Mini Monsters OR anything else that is willing to bite, he Manages Big Ray’s Fly Shop in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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