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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/27

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23
THE GRAYLING

THE GRAYLING AT CARIBOU CROSSING
By President DAVID STARR JORDAN

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

SAINT AMBROSE, of blessed memory, a fisherman of old, likewise a fisher of men, "magnanimous, plaintive and intense," once declared in his town of Trêves in Gaul, Trêvirorum of the Black Gate, fifteen hundred years ago, that the grayling was "the flower of fishes." This it certainly is, the most choice, the most unhackneyed, of all the prizes of the angler.

The Latin name of the grayling, Thymallus, comes from the fact that, when fresh, the fish has the odor of wild thyme, a fragrant mint, common on the brooksides of Northern England. Shakespeare knew on the Avon in Stratford "a bank whereon the wild thyme grows," and I too have found in fragrant Warwickshire many a slope which well answers to Shakespeare's description. But though the grayling is a sweet fish, pleasant to smell as well as to see when it comes forth fresh from the ripple, yet I have never been able to detect the odor the ancients knew so well.

The grayling is cousin to the trout. Its mouth is smaller, its teeth are not so sharp and it has neither the strength nor the speed nor the voracity of the least of the trout. Its scales are larger than in any trout, and there are blue spots as well as black spots on them on a gray background. There is never any red, and from the prevailing gray comes the fine old English name of grayling, as well as the German name of æsch.

The shape of body and fins is like the trout. The little adipose fin is there just the same as in the trout. But the dorsal fin is different. It is much higher than in any trout, and it has more rays. It rises up like a sail and it is marked by sky-blue spots which give the fish a distinguished appearance when it is at home in its native waters.

The grayling lives in swift, clear streams—not often in lakes. It calls for colder water than the trout, and so its range is farther to the north. Indeed, it is comparatively a rare fish outside the Arctic circle.

The different species of grayling are all very much alike in looks as well as in habits. The common grayling of Europe is Thymallus thymallus. It ranges through northern England, Scotland, Scandinavia and Russia. There is, likewise, a species of grayling spread all over Siberia, but we know very little about this fish, and are not sure what species it is.