Game Fishing > Grayling Familiy, Thymallidae

Grayling Familiy, Thymallidae


Grayling Familiy, ThymallidaeOwing to the restricted area of its distribution, the "graceful, gliding grayling" is known to but comparatively few anglers in America. He who has been so fortunate as to have this beautiful fish respond to his deftly cast flies, will bear me out in the assertion that for courage, finesse, and all the qualities that constitute a true game-fish, the grayling is the equal of its congener, the trout.

In France it is known as ombre, in Germany as asche, and in Norway as harren. Among all English-speaking people it is the grayling, though occasionally it is called umber in parts of England. All of these names are somewhat descriptive of its grayish, ashy, or bluish coloration. Gliding along in clear, swift water it seems, indeed, a gray shadow; but fresh out of its native element it becomes a creature of mother-of-pearl, so beautiful and varied are its tints.

The graceful outlines and beautifully-moulded proportions of the grayling, together with the satiny sheen and delicate coloration of her adornment, have always impressed me as essentially feminine. The evanescent play of prismatic hues on her shapely and rounded sides, when fresh from the pure and crystal stream she loves so well, reminds one of changeable silk shot with all the colors of the rainbow. Her tall dorsal fin, with its rose-colored spots, she waves as gracefully and effectually as the nodding plume of a duchess.

The grayling was named by the ancients Thymallus, owing to a smell of thyme that was said to emanate from the fish when freshly caught. However that may have been in days of old, it is not so now, though an odor of cucumbers is sometimes perceptible when it is just out of the water. But the name, if not the odor, has endured to the present day, for Thymallus is still its generic appellation.

The graylings were formerly included in the salmon family, and are still so considered by European ichthyologists, who include them in the genus Salmo. Dr. Theodore Gill, however, has formed them into a separate family (Thymallidae), owing to the peculiar structure of the skull, whereby the parietal bones meet at the median line, excluding the frontal bones from the supra­occipital; whereas in the other salmonids the parietals are separated by the intervention of the supra-occipital bone, which connects with the frontals.

There are three species in America: one in the Arctic regions, one in Michigan, and one in Montana. To the untrained eye no great difference is apparent between these various species as to form and coloration, and their habits are similar, all loving clear, cold, and swift water, with gravelly or sandy bottom.

They feed on insects and their larvae, small minnows, crustaceans, and such small organisms. They spawn in the spring. The eggs are smaller than trout eggs, running seven to the inch. They hatch in from ten days to two weeks, according to temperature of the water.