This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
It should, however, be stated that the peculiar coloration which has gained for the Michigan Grayling its specific name of Tricolor, is not always apparent. Its hues vary under different conditions, and are sometimes mainly confined to the silvery-gray and olive brown.
Much discussion has been held among anglers concerning the merits of the Grayling as a game fish, and also as to its excellence as an article of food; and opinions widely differing on both these points have been advanced by men whose views are entitled to consideration. I am inclined to the opinion that these differences are largely due to the particular months in which the fish were taken.
In the Au Sable, the Grayling spawns in April, and I think earlier in some other streams. The proper months for taking this fish in Michigan are September, October, and November; but a recent act of the Legislature of that State has fixed the close time from the first of September to the succeeding May. It is to be hoped that at a future session the law may be so amended that the open season shall be from July-to December first; or if this be thought too long a period, let them cut off the summer season, but in the name of all that is sensible and fitting, let us have the first two months of autumn.
The following extract from a work on fly-fishing, by Edward Hamilton, M. D., is here given place as having a peculiar appropriateness in this connection:
"There is something, however, in fly-fishing for Grayling, and it has its own peculiar charms. First the time of year when Grayling are in season-the sultry days of summer are past; the autumn colors predominate; all the senses are quickened; the breeze is fresh and balmy-just enough to send your fly farther over to the other bank; the temperature pleasant; the water not too cold for wading-in fact, everything combines to make this fishing very fascinating. I like Grayling fishing also for the fish itself. A Grayling, in season, is worth catching. I call in season, September, October and November; then the fish is as different as possible from the same in June, July, and August, both in beauty and in courage; no dead-heartedness then; and look at his color-he is indeed a glorious combination of purple, gray and gold. I like him also for his boldness and daring, rising again and again at the fly- "Unabashed, will dare, Balked e'er so oft the disappointed snare Simple and bold.
"I say the Grayling is a bold and daring riser, and why is this? He lies low in the river when watching for his prey, and therefore is not so easily disturbed; and if you remain quite still when he has risen and missed the fly and gone down to his lair, he will surely, after a short time, rise again. He rises, too, differently from a Trout. A Trout lies close to the surface when he is feeding, and takes without effort the flies floating over him, and also is easily scared. A Grayling, from lying deep in the water, almost close to the bottom,comes up with great rapidity and never takes the fly till it has passed him, and, should he miss it, disappears so quickly that he may well be compared to a shadow. Should he, however, take the hook, mark then what happens: up goes his great back fin, and down goes his head in his determination to get to his hiding-place, and then comes the struggle. For a time he is always boring with his head up stream to get below, and it depends on his size and gameness, as well as on the skill of his captor, whether he succeeds or not. I say the great dorsal fin is raised to its utmost in the fish's endeavor to go down. Now as this fin is a great characteristic specialty in the Grayling, let us consider for a moment what is its use, and why it should be of such a size.
"It appears evident that its purpose is to enable the fish to descend wiYh great rapidity. I believe the large air-bladder is, with the fin, the chief cause of its rapid rise to the surface, and I think it also probable, that in raising the large fin in descending, the fish is thereby able to compress the air-bladder more effectively, and thus increase the facility of descent. This is a question of extreme interest, and I hope soon to have further evidence on this point. All who watch the Grayling after he is hooked will observe with what tenacity he endeavors to get to the bottom of the river, and how large the dorsal fin appears during the fight.
"It has been remarked by some writers that the Grayling when hooked keeps his head up stream, but still downward toward the bottom. So he does for a certain time; but finding himself baffled he takes to running down-stream (always boring his head downward, particularly the large fish), and I have known a big Grayling run down from above the luncheon-hut to the sheep-bridge on the Houghton water before he could be landed-and then to call him a dead-hearted fish!"
The Grayling streams of Michigan are the Hersey, the lower Pine, the Manistee and its many feeders. The Muscagon, undoubtedly, at some time was a Grayling stream. The Pigeon River, the Sturgeon, the Au Sable, the Maple, the Black, and other streams flowing into the "Inland Chain" of lakes and rivers, are, however, still fairly stocked with this fish.
It has been said by some anglers that the flesh of the Grayling is preferable to that of the Trout. It is assuredly most palatable, and has this in its favor: that "one can eat it every day during a long outing, and the last meal is as hearty as the first."
There appears to be a difference in the structure and habits of the Grayling in different waters. Those found in the streams emptying on the western shore of Michigan are smaller than those of its eastern waters; and it has been said that "the fish of the Manistee is a jumper, while that of the Au Sable is a low, deep, hard puller, with slightly different tactics to free himself than the Manistee Grayling."
With regard to the Montana Grayling, I can hardly do better than introduce an article from the pen of William C. Harris, editor of the "American Angler:"