Seth Green on the Au Sable (1874)

The Grayling

Seth Green’s Return from the Au Sable—Notes of His Trip 

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 8, 1874 (p. 4)

Seth Green returned from his trip to Northern Michigan on Wednesday night.  He left here on the 28th ult., accompanied by his brother, as we announced at the time.  Arriving at Detroit the next morning, the two were speedily en route for Bay City by the railroad connecting with that point, where they arrived shortly after noon.  And here they found D. H. Fitzhugh and Len. Jarrell, the latter a guide, and both pioneers in grayling fishing on the Au Sable.  All the arrangements for camping out were also in readiness, and the party arrived at Crawford, now called Grayling, the same evening.  Here a fine hotel and a hospitable landlord received them, and of course grayling were served at both supper and breakfast. 

On the 30th the party started down the river in two boats, Seth and the guide, Len, going together.  The nature of the stream is such that poles are used to propel the boats, and with the guide in the stern using the poles, Seth found the voyage down stream a safe and pleasant one.  Au Sable is full or rapids and logs, and it is no lazy job to get a boat through safe.  After the boats had proceeded about two miles, Seth says he heard a splash and found that one of the occupants of the other craft had been spilled into the water.  A halt on shore long enough to build a fire and dry the clothing of the immersed voyageur was necessary, after which the four resumed their journey.  Eight miles farther down they reached their camping ground, and by this time they had taken fifty grayling, and some of them were soon broiling on sticks and in a frying pan.  The grayling had taken the fly greedily, affording fine sport. 

Seth says that although good eating, the specimens taken were not equal to trout.  The flesh is firm, coarse-grained and boneless as the trout, but has a peculiar flavor, such as even Seth had never tasted before.  The grayling takes the same sort of fly as the trout.  Mr. Green says that flies tied on a number six hook are about the right size, but he caught them on hooks from number four to number twelve.  To indicate what are regarded as the best taking colors, Seth has sent the last leader and flies he used to Andrew Clerk, 48 Maiden Lane, New York.  Our city anglers who intend to visit the grayling rivers can consult with Seth in person. 

The party slept in camp four nights.  The temperature was cold, the thermometer ranging from 20 to 16 degrees above zero at night.  During the middle of the day it thawed, and that was the time grayling were taken.  The party caught about sixty per day, weighing about two ounces up to a pound, the average being about half a pound.   The grayling began spawning in the Au Sable on April 1st, and completed the operation by the 12th.  They spawn on gravelly bottom and in the most rapid current.  Seth says they make a hole in the gravel, and after casting their spawn, cover it as do trout.  The eggs are transparent and no larger than the smallest brook trout spawn.  In Mr. Green’s opinion the spawn is about forty days in hatching.  The temperature of the river is about 40 degrees. It is filled with springs, and Seth thinks the fish select as spawning beds places where there are springs in the rapids. 

The fish had finished spawning when Seth reached the Au Sable, but he dug out of the gravel 106 eggs, brought them home safely and will hatch them.  They are already far advanced, some trying to break out of the shell now.  Of course Seth was greatly disappointed that his arrival was too late, but not to be baulked altogether he dug enough from the ground for the purpose of experiment.  The spawn has never been hatched artificially up to the present time, and Seth will as usual be the first to make the experiment.  As regards the possibility of propagating the grayling, Seth is of the opinion that the fish would be difficult to strip of its spawn without killing it, this he says might be overcome by using the Amsworth screen or A. S. Collins’ roller. 

Seth left the village of Grayling on Tuesday with eighty large specimens of the fish of the same name, in eight-gallon milk cans, and arrived at Caledonia with the loss of only three of them, one having died and two being hurt so he killed them.  According to the trappers Mr. Green conversed with, there are eight rivers in which grayling are found: namely, the Au Sable, the Manistee, Muskegon, Boardman, Sheboygan, Angray [Au Gres], Rifle, and Marquette.  The Sheboygan has both grayling and brook trout.  Some of these rivers flow into Lake Huron and some into Lake Michigan.  We may mention that some years ago Professor Agassiz wrote a complete description, accompanied by a drawing, of the English grayling, and it is now seen that the grayling of Michigan is the same fish.  It is curious that the fish should have been so long unknown to naturalists.  The value of Seth Green’s trip will be seen at a glance. 

From the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle, 16 May 1874, p. 4:  

Forest and Stream says: “Seth Green, the veteran fish culturist, writes all his notes with lead pencil on scraps of paper, but these rough notes, tossed off like chips from a sturdy ax, always contain words of wisdom.  Seth is very modest withal, though possessing a commendable degree of pride in whatever work he undertakes or accomplishes.”