Fishing for Arctic grayling can be tricky on the best days – but you can boost your chances of success tremendously by having the right fly in your tackle box. But what to do when what should work doesn’t?  Get ready to make it work with a little ingenuity.

On one particular trip, our guide Nathan and myself were working hard for some grayling in a stream that flows into Aylmer Lake. We had flies that we thought matched the hatch exactly, but they just weren’t getting it done. After a couple hours of frustration and more then enough fly changes, Nate took a chance and painted a black ant even more black and put a red dot on the belly of the fly with a marker. This little change was just what the fish wanted, and on almost every cast for the next three to four hours it was grayling after grayling.

The question was and is how do you solve problems of not having the right variation of fly and still have a successful day on the water? The answer?  A little creativity and the right tools. Here’s a list of what we keep in our bag of tricks:

Light Cahills

These go along with the pens because they are easy to color and match a variety of mayflies, and arctic grayling love them.

Hare’s Ears

Another a fly that matches almost every nymph that is super easy to color like the Light Cahill. Don’t be afraid to try a red dot on the butt if nothing else is working.

Felt Sharpies

Nathan and I both agree that you can match almost any hatch with a few basic colors of felt pen. Black, red, green, and yellow are the four I would suggest having in your bag to start. Silver and brown are also go-to colors that I always have in my gear.


These will make sculpting your Elk Hair Caddis into a Serendipity or that Woolly Bugger into a Damsel nymph a walk in the park.

Lead Core Line

Instant sink tip! This isn’t a fly, but a piece of lead core has made all the difference. It makes casting a little tricky, but a foot or two on a dry or sink tip line can sometimes be the difference if you don’t have the right line.


A piece of thread can be cut to size and tied to the butt of a fly to look like a shuck or tails. You can also use it to save that last fly when it starts coming apart. Which brings up…

Super Glue

OK, I love the stuff!  A drop on a disintegrating fly can save it. You can use it to give a nymph some extra shine or as an air bubble on a midge. Besides fly repairs, I have also used it to glue a fly line together and to seal cuts.


These are some simple fixes that we have used as emergency solutions to hatch matching situations when arctic grayling fishing. They don’t take up much space and when you need this stuff, you’ll be very glad that you have it.