Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

December 28th, 1998

Yellowstone Grayling

This week begins a new series on Grayling. A few weeks ago a gentleman commented on the Guestbook, mentioning it would be nice if we had some information on Grayling. We asked Chat Room Host, Bob Fairchild if he would be willing to write something on Grayling for us. Bob lives in Anchorage Alaska, and it just so happens Grayling are his favorite fish. There's an old Texas phrase - "you call, we haul, - you all."

Grayling really are terrific fish. I've only had the pleasure of catching - or fishing for them one time. It was memorable, because some twenty years later I can still recall it well. In fact, the photo of the Grayling on the front page this week is one from that trip.

There aren't many places in the lower U.S. where you can catch Grayling at all. However, at one time, they were so numerous the town of Grayling, Michigan was named for the fish. I can't think of any other town named for a fish, if you can, please let me know. The fish were caught commercially and sold as far away as New York City! Eventually, the fish were all but wiped out, and clear-cutting of the forest surrounding the Au Sable River caused enough silt and problems to wipe out the remainder.

We walked the four miles or so into Grebe Lake in Yellowstone Park to catch our Grayling. There are a few other places in Yellowstone where you can also catch them, but Grebe many years ago was quite undisturbed. We met no other hikers or fishermen on our way in, but did have the pleasure of meeting several large sand hill cranes. They watched us pass with little regard, other than a clack or two. They make a very recognizable sound.

Grebe's Grayling were not very selective. They basically would rise and take any well presented dry fly. We caught a bunch, each carefully released - note the eye on the one on the front page - a centered eye in a photo is an almost foolproof indication of a dead fish.

They fight like a cross between a brown and a rainbow, feisty, runny, and jumpy and will bull-dog as well. A fun mix! Probably the largest Grayling we caught was 16 inches. We had been told to make sure we smelled a Grayling. Unlike the "never smell a gift fish" warning, we took it seriously, and were treated to the fresh Thyme scent only found in Grayling. Remarkable.

While fishing, we also had the treat of a pair of trumpeter swans swim by, looking all the world like supreme royality. A lovely Montana-blue-sky day. That day so many years ago, brought front and center by a request for information on Grayling.

Maybe that's one of the real treasures of fly fishing. It keeps on giving.
~ Deanna Birkholm

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