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I had always associated graylings with Arctic fishing, so I was thrilled to have hooked one here. I played the fish cautiously because even though it was no more than 10 inches long, its high sail-like dorsal fin seemed to make any turn more violent than a similar maneuver by other species of trout. I played the line by hand once again. The fish was dark under the water and beautiful.
As I landed it, I heard a voice behind me and turned to see a heavy, red-faced man walking across the field toward me. "Kontrolle, "he called. He pushed his lapel to one side, and I saw the insignia of the fishing club I belonged to, if only for the day. I would not have taken the man for a ranger. He looked like a guy who sometimes sits out in leftfield at American Legion games, a beer cooler by his lawn chair.
"Kontrolle, forellen [trout] kontrolle, " he said.
I released the grayling and dug into my fly jacket for the two licenses. The man breathed hard from his walk across the field. I handed him the licenses, and he inspected them. He wrote something on one and then asked if I had caught anything.
"Nothing to keep," I told him.
He asked where I was from, and when I said the United States, he threw his hands apart to indicate the length of a fish and said, " Montana!" He moved his hands a few inches farther apart and said, " Wyoming!" Finally, with his arms open wide, he all but shouted, " Alaska."
"Ja, Ja," I said repeatedly, inordinately proud that I came from a land where such monsters are common. It was slow going but we established a bond. The ranger told me to move downstream about a quarter of a mile where the fishing was better. He left me, crossing the field again to his car. He waved as he got in. I waved back.
As I moved downstream, I didn't know whether the fishing would be better, but I quickly saw that it would be easier. Here at last was the low-boot section. The trees had been cut away. Below the three-foot bank was a beautiful stretch of ideal trout water. It ran in a steady flow, only occasionally doubling back on itself around large rocks. Natural pools formed everywhere. Under the glaze of sunlight, I saw trout holding their positions in the stream.
By noon I had caught about 15 fish. All of them were healthy and vibrant. An hour later, I stopped for a lunch of local cheese, fresh bread and beer. As I stood in the shade of a stand of birch, drinking a second beer, I could almost see the last of the snow melting on the mountains.
After lunch I worked downstream, and if anything, the fishing was too good to be challenging. I changed flies several times, attempting to see if the fish would be selective, but they rose to any enticement. The competition among the fish was so intense that I took trout on both wet flies, in particular Black Marabou, and dries—Duns, Wulffs and Quill Gordons. Almost all the trout were 10 to 12 inches long. I felt like Midas.