Through the Yukon region of the great northwest, there is a grayling, very abundant in the right waters and bearing the name of the standard-bearer, Thymallus signifer. In the old days, after the great glacial ice, this fish extended to the eastward over a much larger area, but the ice has melted away, and there are left three isolated colonies to the southeast of the main band. One of these colonies is called Thymallus ontariensis or tricolor and lives in certain streams, notably the Jordan and the Au Sable, in the sandy woods of the southern peninsula of Lake Michigan. In both these streams the grayling is growing scarce through the combined evil influence of the lumberman and the trout-hog. In the northern peninsula, there is another isolated little colony. Let us call its stream the Nameless River, and if we leave it so the thyme-scented fish may increase to fill other rivers which are not nameless.
The remaining colony, a little changed from the other two through long isolation, is in Montana, at the head of the Missouri River. The Montana grayling is called Thymallus montanus. It is most plentiful in the Gallatin River, and if you look through the mountains till you find Horsethief Creek, you will be sure of at least one day's good sport. It will take all day to find the creek, no matter from where you start.
And this brings me to describe my best day's sport with the grayling. It so happened that in June, 1897, the present writer was in the city of Juneau, the metropolis of Alaska. That day, the Canadian surveyor, Ogilvie, since noted in Klondyke history, had reached Juneau from up the coast and across the mountains with a wonderful story of the happenings in the northwest territory of Canada, on the banks of the middle Yukon. It seems that the Indian Skookum Jim of Caribou Crossing, with his friend Tagish Charley, a squaw man Siwash George, and his wife, who was Skookum Jim's sister, were wandering across the country, supposed vaguely to be in the interest of one Anderson—looking for gold.
Away down the river beyond Lake Labarge, one of the men took sick. He had eaten too much blubber of some sort, and the wife of Siwash George went down to a brook to get him a basin of water. In the bottom of the basin was a streak of fine gold. They went down to the stream and bailed out more. Then Skookum Jim, as his name would indicate, started out swiftly at the top of his speed, "touching only the high places," to record with the Dominion authorities the claim of himself and his associates. Skookum in Chinook means swift, hence Skookum Chuck—a waterfall. Bonanza Creek, Klondyke, Dawson then at once became names and then realities, and all the world knows their story. Skookum Jim, a millionaire, built himself a large house of pine lumber at Caribou Crossing. He went to Seattle to buy a Brussels carpet for its floor. When the carpet came it was too broad by nearly a yard for Skookum Jim's best room. So he had