As I finally reached the crest and emerged through the pine trees into sunlight I realised it would be worth it. Even the couple seemed to have patched things up, their argument long forgotten. In a shallow depression atop the mountain, completely surrounded by pine trees and sandy beaches was a clear lake. I could see grayling chasing each other about in the shallows and there was even a rise or two. No pain, no gain. It also helped being smug in the knowledge that the hike back out was all downhill.
I walked to the opposite end of the lake, to the inlet of its largest feeder stream where several grayling were rising in the shallows.
I cast out a small black CDC pattern and within seconds the fly was attacked. I missed the take and flicked out the fly once again, giving the line a few rapid false casts to dry the fly, and as it settled on the water for a second time it was taken again. This time I managed to set the hook and after a brisk and energetic fight had my first lake grayling in my hands. Apparently the lake dwelling form of Montana's grayling are genetically distinct from the fluvial variety. They look the same though. They really are a good looking fish when they flare out their colourful dorsal fins. The European grayling I have caught in the rivers and streams of Wales and England have red and purple spotted dorsal fins. These grayling had dorsal fins the colour of lapis lazuli with iridescent turquoise spots. Pink and turquoise stripes adorned their beautiful pelvic fins.
Grayling attacked my dry fly eagerly. If nothing happened immediately upon the fly landing on the water I'd let it drift with the wind and soon enough - virtually every time - a grayling would find it and take it. Only about one in every four strikes was successful though. It's the kind of place that if you wanted to (and could set aside the boredom that must surely set in) you could easily catch a hundred fish in a day. Even though I only used two CDC patterns I also got the sense that almost any dry fly would work on these grayling too. These fish were pretty naive. I fished for a couple of hours, took lots of photos, explored the lake shore and inlet streams and caught about 12 grayling. The best was about 13 inches long and some were as small as 5 inches.
It was fun (only after I climbed the mountain and had a chance to catch my breath) and offered a nice change from fishing rivers.