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OBSERVATIONS ON THE TROUT AND GRAYLING.
“I arrived there at dusk, and beginning at the top of the stream, fished it step by step. When I came to the middle of the stream, where it was still very rough, there was a splash at the fly, as if some one had thrown into the water a large paving stone, and my line few over my head. On looking at it, the sixteen hairs were staring in all directions, but the fly was gone." --ARUNDO, p. 31.
THE TROUT, — Salmo Fario of the Naturalist, is generally the prime favourite of the flyfisher, both for his beauty, and for the sport he affords. His enamelled sides, studded as with rich gems, and his tints of yellow gold, make him bear comparison with the salmon in point of beauty; while the amount of sport annually enjoyed in Trout-fishing far exceeds that yielded by his rival in this country.
Of the three varieties, the red, the yellow,
and the white, the red is preferred both for beauty and flavour.
This justly-esteemed fish, when in the best condition, measures from the nose to the fork of the tail twice as much as his girth. The weight of trout usually taken with the fly is from two ounces to two pounds and a half; but they are sometimes taken of four, and five pounds, and even larger ; but under three or four ounces they are too small for the creel.
The Trout has eight fins, viz. one dorsal, one anal, one caudal, two pectoral, two ventral, and a little fleshy one without spines on the back near the tail-fin.
Sir H. Davy says (Salmonia, p. 73.): “I have known the number of spines in the pectoral fins different in different varieties of Trout: I have seen them twelve, thirteen, and fourteen ; but the anal fin always, I believe, contains eleven spines, the dorsal twelve or thirteen, the ventral nine, and the caudal twenty-one."
The back fin has a pale brown colour, with darker brown spots upon it; the others (including the tail) have a red tint. The colour of the back, when in perfect condition (which is generally in May, but in some waters not until June), is usually a dark olive green, studded with a mixture of black and brownish spots. The sides are shaded off from the olive to a
greenish yellow, studded with red spots ; the black spots gradually vanishing. Lower down the yellow tint approaches a salmon colour, and the belly is nearly white, without any spots.
The whole surface of the fish, when in condition, presents a beautiful gradation of tints: but the complexion varies greatly in different waters, and also in all waters at different periods of the year. It is principally modified by his state of health.
Sir H. Davy says: “ The colouring matter is not in the scales, but in the surface of the skin immediately beneath them, and is probably a secretion easily affected by the health of the animal.” (Salmonia, p. 40.)
After spawning time, (i. e.) the month of September or October, both the male and female lose their more beautiful tints, become thinner, and are considered quite out of season; and towards the end of the winter, and even in March, some parasites, like leeches, about an inch long, green and semi-transparent, are found adhering to them. When in this sad state the flesh, if cooked, cuts soft, and looks white, and very different from the rich salmon colour which always indicates good condition and quality. Every true disciple of Izaak Walton who may take such a thin black-looking Trout will return the lanky trophy to its native element.
Haunts. To enumerate the rivers, streams, and brooks of this country, which the common Trout inhabits, would be an endless and useless task; he may be said to frequent almost all of them, and will even sometimes be discovered in a mere ditch (in spawning time), having scarcely depth of water enough to cover the back.
He delights in rapid clear-running waters, with a rocky or gravelly bottom. An attempt has been made in the annexed plan to point out his favourite haunts, &c. in such waters. They are,-1st. The head and tail of a stream, in other words, the ends of a rapid, as A. 2ndly. The eddies formed by water passing round an obstruction in the current, as B. 3rdly. Such tracts as C, where a chain of bubbles or little floating objects indicate the course of the principal current; which course is chiefly dependent upon various reflections of the water, from projecting banks, rocks, scours, and shoals, and may often be guessed at, when not sufficiently visible, by attending to the position of the banks, &c. 4thly. At the roots of trees, or in other places where the froth (called in Staffordshire Beggar's Balm) collects. 5thly. In little whirlpools, as G, he will often be found during a fresh. He may then be angled for, if the water is much discoloured, with anteggs, wasp-grubs, or gentles; but a few hours