The na­ture of things

Brown trout

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

THE Ro­man au­thor Aelian de­scribed brown trout as the ‘fish with speck­led skins’. In me­dieval times, Dame Ju­liana Bern­ers, the sport­ing Bene­dic­tine nun, rel­ished it as ‘a right dainty fish and also a right fer­vent biter… in sea­son from March un­til Michael­mas’. Izaak Wal­ton’s The Com­pleat An­gler (1653) salutes the trout as ‘highly val­ued, both in this and for­eign na­tions. He may be justly said, as the old poet said of wine, and we English say of veni­son, to be a gen­er­ous fish that… comes in and goes out of sea­son with the stag and buck… a fish that feeds clean and purely, in the swiftest streams, and on the hardest gravel’.

From spawn­ing in early spring, most young trout (some 95%) die within their first year and, al­though they lack scales in the first month of life, the grow­ing sur­vivors de­velop tiny growth rings on their scales, en­abling age cal­cu­la­tions, like the rings on a tree. As with leop­ards, the trout’s spots en­sure cam­ou­flage for this op­por­tunis­tic hunter of streambed in­ver­te­brates and small crea­tures on or near the wa­ter’s sur­face. Sea trout are of the same species but mi­grate to the ocean, re­turn­ing to fresh­wa­ter only to spawn. Rain­bow

Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

trout (top left, top right), a Pa­cific Ocean species, was in­tro­duced here in the 19th cen­tury, but sel­dom in­ter­breeds with browns, other than on fish farms. KBH

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