|The rare Montana version of the Arctic grayling.|
Arctic grayling still persist in the extreme headwaters of the Missouri River drainage–the only Lower 48 basin where the grayling is native. That they can still be occasionally caught in the Big Hole River or in the lakes and creeks of Montana's Centennial Valley is nothing short of a miracle. Considering the West's record with water and how it's channeled, tunneled, diverted, fouled by livestock and sprayed over crops, it's easier to imagine a Montana without grayling than the one we have today, where this amazing fish hangs on by a thread.
|Delicate? No. Imperiled? Yes.|
|The last, best ... home of the grayling.|
Contrary to their slim and feminine exterior, grayling are solid fish. Their thick, silvery skin feels like a coat of chain mail, and they fight well when hooked. What's more, they struggle and yearn for freedom when they finally come to hand. They twitch and writhe and squirm like no other, desperate to be back in the depths of a green pool, where they'll look up again for a meal that, hopefully, won't bite back.
They may not possess the multiplication skills that earned brookies such a bad rap, but grayling do have an admirable desire to swim free in western waters where they evolved as the last of their kind.
Appreciate the grayling for it's life force. It's admirable and strong. Remember, too, that these rarest of the rare are in real trouble in their native range. If you have the chance to visit the Missouri River headwaters tucked into the remote corners of southwest Montana, fish lightly and with a purpose. Give the grayling its due, and be sure to release them alive and well in the cold, clean water from which they came.