The way we understand or perceive trout is probably on shaky ground – mostly we have folksy ideas about them that can be useful and in fact quite a bit of it is correct, I guess? There is a lot known about them, but a hell of a lot more is simply suspected. Flyfishers draw heavily on science, but sometimes we leave all those facts behind and take long trips into anthropomorphism and even poetry.
Trout are a beautiful species and may even appear otherworldly, torpedo shaped and sometimes brilliantly, often outrageously coloured – the wild ones. They are hydrodynamic creatures able to perform maneuvers, darting and hovering in currents in which we have trouble keeping our footing. They flourish even at times (like at present with the worst drought in decades), when conditions look impossibly harsh, but they do like things clean and cold. Despite their brilliant colours, their backs are dark and mottled, perfectly camouflaged from natural predators from above the likes of herons, kingfishers and more recently in evolutionary terms, you and me. Then there are times when they are exposed under a bright sun, its then that they look black, shadows on the streambed you feel like a voyeur, delighted you have a view of something you don’t have a right to see – don’t feel too guilty, it’s my guess they will spook at your first cast.
In one sense trout are perfectly adapted working parts of a stream, in a way of turning water, sunlight, oxygen and protein into consciousness. They feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects especially when they are active, but will of clamp their mouths shut when they’re not. They have a competence when it comes to survival operating at the edge of things – currents fast and slow, deep and shallow water, light and darkness. The flyfisher who eventually understands all this is beginning to get with the programme and to knowing what he’s doing.
One of the finest things about catching trout is to hold them momentarily and to marvel at its creation – the metallic brightness, the pinks, oranges and yellows, and of course the spots – be amazed by the vibrancy in the clear water and amongst such gray rocks and dull coloured bugs – perhaps prettier than they should be. It may even set you off wondering about reality.
It is said that trout are curious, shy, belligerent and at times even angry and just when we begin to think that we have an understanding of them they have other ideas and defy all our well-formed theories and behave differently – that’s when we are inclined to label the trout as being intelligent. Is there any truth in that? – I don’t really think so, but in defense of creative thinking let me put it this way, if they are so dumb, why are they so difficult to catch at times. The myth that trout are smart was invented by flyfishers as a kind of self-exaggeration – hook the wise old brown trout that has been holed up in the same prime lie for many years and seen plenty of artificials drifted over him, is one thing, but to be outsmarted by a sub reptilian creature, slimy and cold-blooded with a proven pea sized brain and just the glimmerings of awareness, is degrading and something perhaps you shouldn’t spread around too much.
Let’s leave it that trout are incongruously pretty and really smart – it helps with my stories.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2016. All rights reserved