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.
"I don't want ter sell 'im. Marm likes 'em."
Just at this stage of the colloquy, we noticed that the fish were rising at the feathers which had settled on the water.
"Brown hackles, eh, John?"
"Of course-see 'em jump; but we can't fish now, we must have a better camp-ground than this, and it's growing late."
The boy was rewarded and sent home; the driver instructed to meet us three days later with the team at a given point some thirty miles below; the boat was launched and stowed, and soon we were gliding down the swift, shallow river, bending our gaze to the right and left, in search of a camping-place. Rounding a bend, the current became swifter, and soon we were rushing toward a gleam of foam which seemed to stretch clear across the river.
"Which way now?"
"Right through that little slick patch ahead, and then dodge to the right."
Straight for the "little slick patch" we sped, and were through it in an instant, just missing the ledges to port, while the spray flashed over the bow, as short to the right we turned, and dodging the bowlders that lay in wait, the powerful sweeps of the paddles sent the good boat round the rough point of a threatening reef, and away we went in the whirling waves, down a slope of feathery foam.
"Pretty good for an introduction that."
"Yes. Wonder where we are going to camp?" said John. "I want a Grayling for supper."
"Can't tell yet," I replied; as, standing in the stern, I griped more firmly my long Canadian paddle, and kept my eyes on the channel straight before. Old Joe Le Clair had made that paddle, and a better piece of timber never graced the hand of a steersman.
Swifter and swifter grew the current; the drooping branches which brushed its surface were swept downward by its force, and, laden with tufts of moss and leaves, splashed in and out of the stream with a queer, jerky motion, as we hurried past, while now and then, with plash and scream, a water-fowd arose from the pools along the margin, and flashed away through the sunlit leaves.
And now arose on either hand dark limestone cliffs, rifted and seamed, and hung with ferns and clematis vines, and the blue bells of the campanula. Below us was the "Devil's Elbow," so called by the raftsmen who plied their adventurous trade along the stream, and as this gorge of ominous name now opened on our view, I thought that despite the coarseness of the appellation, it was hardly inappropriate.
Down the steep slope we sped, straight where the swollen river flung its force against a wall of rock, beneath the frowning front of a precipice, and, wheeling sharp to the left with a foaming swirl, was lost to view in the depths below.
"By Jove," said John, "there is a singular example of stratification."
"No talking to the man at the helm. Stand by to fend off." Our prow was cutting the wall of foam at the base of the cliff, but swerved to the powerful sweep of the paddles, and the reeling boat shot down the gorge, past rock and reef, that showed their teeth to weather and lee, through the gleam of the plunging foam.
The river widened, and in five minutes more we were floating upon a swift but tranquil current. The sun had set, and the evening twilight rested on the forest, when we moored our boat to a projecting root, and made our camp in a grove of great canoe-birches.
The shades of night were falling fast before our tent was pitched, but in no long time were for us dispelled by the flames of a glorious camp-fire whose huge logs glowed in the fervent heat, while eddying sparks and volumed smoke whirled upward through the birchen boughs, and stirred their whispering leaves.
Mind that this fire was builded for its own dear sake. We were no greenhorns, to try to cook our supper by a volcano. Our culinary department was situated in the background, and though comparatively inconspicuous, proved thoroughly effective, as was made manifest by the savory steams which hung on the still night-air.
During our meal, the conversation naturally drifted toward the objects of our cruise, and when we had finished, John arose, took up his rod, and attaching a white miller to his leader, stated his intention of trying a cast by moonlight. This he accordingly did, but unsuccessfully; and after one or two changes of flies, he gave up the experiment, returned to the fire and lighted his pipe.
The air was frosty. Fresh logs were heaped upon the fire, and, disposing ourselves upon the blankets, we leaned our backs against the birches that towered aloft against the starry sky, their white bark gleaming in the ruddy blaze.
Said John, reflectively: "The best day I ever had was on the Jordan, long ago. Jim S. and I caught one hundred and forty-two Grayling in one day, besides those we returned to the water. We took home nothing under a pound, and many were nearly twice that weight. There are none such to be had now. It was in July, and we used nothing but gnats and gray hackles.
"Jim got excited once, when he had three big fellows on at one time, and broke the second joint of his rod. Then we dropped the hand-fly, and at last used only one gnat apiece. The last time I fished that river, I caught fifty-six Trout, but not a Grayling rose to the fly.
"In Maple River they are still plentiful, and (so I hear) in Portage Lake.
"On the Au Sable, the best fishing-grounds are forty miles further down than they used to be.
"I have had good success on the Buttermilk and Cannon creeks, but you have to go pretty well down the streams for the best fish. Cannon Creek seems to be full of little fellows. On the Little Manistee the Grayling is still plentiful, but I fear not for long, at the rate they are being taken.
"I believe that the way to insure the preservation of this fish is to pass an act prohibiting, under a heavy penalty, the catching of Grayling at any time except during the month of September. They are in season then, if ever."