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 is well to have a good assortment of Hies, the same you would choose for Trout. The Grayling is naturally a surface feeder, and not being as easily scared as the Trout, will often rise again and again at the same fly. Not unfrequently the stomach has been found to contain cedar leaves, etc., which the fish had swallowed, thinking them insects.
It should, however, be stated that there is evidence showing that the Grayling is to some extent a vegetable feeder, and the leaves or similar substances may have been intentionally swallowed.
The different hackles, black, gray, brown and red, are good at all seasons. In the early summer months the small brown or gray gnats are taking. The Grayling shows a slight preference for a fly with some white in its make-up-the coachman and the Beaverkill wrapped with silver tinsel are killing.
Among the favorites are the grasshoppers, yellow and green, the Bee, grizzly king, royal coachman, jungle cock, Montreal, Lord Baltimore, Professor, Abbey, yellow Sally, etc. I have seen the Grayling rise freely to the blue dragonfly, but only on one occasion. I have since tried it with very unsatisfactory results.
I am not opposed to bait-fishing at times, and I once fished for Grayling with a piece of pork. There was nothing else to bait with, and I caught no fish. My companion, using the same lure, was more successful, and managed to secure enough for our dinner. I remember one day sitting in a boat on the Manistee, in a heavy rain, and ineffectually casting my flies; while the man opposite, using angle-worms, caught, in half an hour, nearly a score of fine fish. He was a skilful Trout-fisher, and it was interesting to note the difference between the methods of the Grayling and those of the Trout in taking a bait. The latter comes with a rush, and a snap; while the former moves so carefully that it is often only by the motion of the line that the angler can tell if the bait has been taken.
Some of the best Grayling streams of Michigan remain such because they are difficult of access and little known; and it was toward one of these, not many years ago, on a calm, still September afternoon, that the writer bent his way in company with a friend who shall be called John. It was our first visit to that locality, and on the way we interviewed a native who professed to know something of the river.
"Wa-al," said he, biting at the end of a piece of "navy plug," "the's fish enough, but yeou want ter gi'daown tew three mild 'fore yeou'll find many on 'em. The river's full o'rapids, 'n I do' know haow yeou'll git along." We informed him that we had a boat.
"Ya-as-so I see. The most o' them 'at's ben daown in a boat gin'ly ties a piece o' railroad iron to the hind eend o' ther skift, so's ter gi'daown ther rapids kind o' stiddy like."
John and I looked at each other and grinned. Fixing the moss-back with my eagle eye, to him then thus in substance I replied:
"My cautious friend, to us it skills not that every boatman hereabout should tardily tow a railroad in his rear, what time he runneth rapids. Life is all too short for that sort of foolery. For two-score years and more, as opportunity occurred, have I cruised the rushing rivers of our fatherland, yet have I never tied to the tail of my craft any such contraption as this you advocate; and further I may add, the Nine gods helping me, I never will."
"Wa-al, mabbe yeou know best, yeou're the doctor, 's the sayin' is, but it's most darnation aowly on them there rapids, naow I tell ye, 'n I'll be gosh darned ef I'd put intew that there river 'ithaout suthin' ter stiddy ther bwut daown apast them there rocks. It's a kinder temptin' o' Providence."
"We can tell better after we get through."
"W'y, yeou don't 'xpect ter go clean threw, dew ye?"
"That'sthe plan. There'll be no cordeliering on this trip."
"Wa'al, yeou'll hev ter dew it, I s'pose, 'f yeou say so, 'n 'ta'nt no bisness o' mine. But yer baound ter git 'n trouble. Ther rapids isn't all, by a darned sight. The's rocks, 'n logs, 'n daown timber, 'n jam-piles, 'n telerguf poles, 'n cedar ties, 'n every other dum thing yeou c'n think on. Yeou do'no what yer a comin' tew, no time."
"That is just what brought us here, my friend," said John. "We want to see what sort of a river it is, and what's in it; and if we knew just what we were going to find there, we would change our plans and choose another."
The sun was sinking toward the western horizon when we reached the last house on our road; a small log-cabin, before which a huge woman sat knitting, and smoking a cob pipe. She courteously answered our inquiries concerning the proper route, and as several logging roads branched from the track, she called her son-a boy of about twelve years-and told him to guide us to the river. The little fellow ran into the house, and soon reappeared, carrying an immense army musket.
We could not repress a smile when, shouldering the preposterous weapon, the boy took his place in front of the team, and prepared to lead the way.
The mother laughed good-humoredly. "It is a pretty big gun, but Jock knows how to use it. Git us somethin' for supper, Jock, 'fore ye come back."
A mile of rough travel brought us to the edge of a small marsh, beyond which we saw the gleam of the river. Here it was necessary to leave the wagon, the ground being impracticable for horses.
Lifting the boat, we passed the marsh, the boy in advance holding his musket at a ready, and as we neared the stream, a pair of ruffed grouse rose near our feet and sped across the river; but before they had gone thirty yards, the old gun spouted forth its flame, and the leading bird dropped into the bushes on the other side of the stream.
"Whew!" said John. "Who taught you to shoot grouse that way?"
"Dad," replied [the boy. "They a'n't grouse, they're pat'ges."
"You're a promising specimen of Young America, I must say. We'll buy that bird of you for supper."