Know Your Game Fish
Fishing Skills, Fly Fishing

Know Your Game Fish

An article by Alan Parfitt.

They say you should never apologise but as a philosophical anarchist, I have the licence to do whatever I like.

With that in mind, I will start by explaining that although I am trained in “Scientific” things I will apologise for the non-scientific idiosyncratic approach to this article.

My initial objective was quite modest in attempting to display what can be called a typical Usk brown trout. Unfortunately, as I started to mess around in “Photoshop” I become more and more engrossed with the difference in the fish images. It was not very long before I had lost any real control and started scanning like a madman all the available fish slides that I had taken of fish caught by my own rod on my trips both at home and abroad. The result is a collection of trout pictures which I hope you the reader can enjoy and you may even recognise the difference between fish of the same species from waters that you yourself have experience of.

Let us begin with the Usk brown trout.

The Usk has long been famous for both its Salmon and the superb quality of its native Brown trout.

Unlike most of the rivers of Wales, which must be said all have their own excellent stocks of brown trout, the Usk is an alkaline river and capable of producing a much larger average size fish than its more acidic neighbours, of the rivers Wye and Towy.

The river Usk has excellent hatches of fly which makes it a wonderful wild dry fly river. It is unfortunate however these fly hatches are nowhere near as good as they once were. The famous hatches of March brown’s in the early spring have all but disappeared but on its day the river can still provide memorable fishing. The trout like the fly life have also declined in number but this is partly offset by the increase in their average size. Years ago the standard trout would be 10oz. with a 1lb. (13-14 inch) trout a really good one. Nowadays you need to catch a 2lb fish in order to get bragging rights. There are many much larger fish present for those who wish to target them and are often mistaken for seatrout by the inexperienced.

We all know that the Brown trout is a very plastic species and can show enormous variation in colouration. This variation up until recently has to lead to the perception of each variation being a distinct species. We now accept that the separate species are in fact simply variations of brown trout and the varieties are a result of many factors which include habitat, food, isolation, water quality and genetic pool. Having said all this, one might reasonably ask how can one distinguish between trout from one habitat and another. Indeed trout from a single river such as the Usk itself will show considerable variation so how can there be a typical Usk brown trout. The key to this answer is in the word TYPICAL.

My fishing friends and I have caught a very large number of trout of all sizes from the Usk and we frequently say to each other “look at this fish, a typical Usk brown”. In other words, the Usk brown is a fish you recognise as having the colouration or markings you have learned to expect.

To put it another way, if you catch a fish which does not comply with your expectations you either comment on its difference and/or suspect it is a foreign stock trout.

The Usk brown trout is a very distinctive and beautiful fish which I will not attempt to describe. Look at the image and you see one for yourself.

I have put the Usk fish alongside an example of a typical trout from the major rivers to the west and east as a means of comparison. I would have a real problem trying to distinguish a Towy and Wye brown but not the Usk.

In Wales, the brown trout is not confined to rivers but is found in almost every natural lake. There is also the variation we in Wales call the Sewin ( Welsh for the Silver one) or known everywhere else Seatrout. Our American friends refer to it as the sea-run brown.

Sea Trout to Wales are the equivalent to Salmon in Scotland or Golden trout to the high sierra of California. Wales is the land of the Sewin and visitors come from all parts of the globe seeking this elusive and enigmatic but fabulous fish.

It might be the same species as the brown trout but in appearance and habit, it is very different.

The two fish illustrated show sea trout taken from the open sea. Gone are the red spots and they are frequently described as bars of silver. Fresh run fish are recognised by their silver appearance but the longer they remain in freshwater so they darken and take on more colour.

The hill lakes (or in Welsh Llyns) of Wales produce a remarkable variety of colouration in their trouty inhabitants.

Some of the lakes lie in peat country which makes them quite acidic and gives the water a dark stain. These lakes are often infertile and can only produce small trout. Look closely though, before returning the tiny fish at your feet and you will observe one of the most beautiful creatures in miniature that you will ever behold. Other hill Llyns rest on stone and have crystal clear water. These Llyns can be as unproductive as their peat coloured companions but occasionally are capable of producing specimen fish.

You need to do your research is all I will say about these gems.

The pictures of the hill trout are an attempt to show the variety of colouration available in these wonderfully hidden waters in the hills and mountains of Wales where the fish are truly wild and you will not see another soul all day long.

Another fine sporting game fish that is becoming more popular to fish for because it is available in the winter months is the Grayling.

Grayling are not found in the Usk or Towy but abundant in the Wye which is capable of producing specimen fish. I have been fortunate enough to have caught the European and Arctic grayling and wondered what the difference is. I hope the illustration will help.

The final illustration is included because as I have already explained I got carried away with manipulating fish images in Photoshop to allow the reader to see the individual beauty in each type of fish.

I include it to display the varieties of trout found in North America. Many fly fisherman in the UK fish predominantly for Rainbow trout which are all stockfish. I include a UK stock rainbow and its wild counterpart. What a difference.