Trout Talk

The tug or the mug?

Is there anything more beautiful than a brook trout? Chris Hunt photo.

I love trout. I particularly love wild trout. And, frankly, I don’t really care how big (or how little) they are.

But this spring, I’ve been something of a fishing dilettante. Bonefish in the Bahamas. Carp in the desert. Oscars and peacock bass in the hinterlands of the Everglades. All three locales are stunning in their own right — vast and beautiful. Stark and yet so full of life.

And each of the fish I mentioned above, on average, fights harder than a trout does when connected to the business end of a fly rod.

But at some point, every angler has to decide what’s more important? The tug and the violence and sheer determination of bonefish? The surly, unrelenting strength of a carp? Or the quick-hit, deep dive of the South American oscar that now calls the canals of south Florida home?

Or the sheer, stunning beauty of a wild trout, plucked from snow-chilled water, and admired for its often-stunning appearance, and not so much the fight it put up before it came to hand?

Is it the tug? Or the mug?

They’re the home team, if you will. Maybe that’s why I always come back to trout, no matter how far I wander in search of something “better.”

Having fished the world over for trout and other gamefish, I’m the first to admit that just about any saltwater fish, hooked and battled on a fly, is superior to trout when it comes to the fight. Carp, too, are in a different league when they come tight to a fly and peel into the backing of the average fly reel. Oscars? Peacock bass? Snakeheads? All these Everglades invaders are seemingly more determined than the average trout.

This palm-sized oscar plucked from an Everglades canal put up a hell of a fight. Chris Hunt photo.

Exceptions? Certainly. Giant brown trout in Argentina put up a hell of a fight (and, one could argue, they’re more appealing to look at than most fly-rod quarry). Steelhead, which are ocean-going rainbow trout, have that saltwater pull, and they, too, can be stunning to gaze upon.

As a lifelong trout angler, I’ve come to grips with the notion that trout offer something of a more well-rounded encounter for the angler. Maybe it’s the propensity to hit a fly on top, or the visual aspect of a solid streamer take. Or maybe it’s that they just look better … an aesthetic thing (although, and you’ll have to forgive me, I find a mirror carp to be absolutely stunning — proof that even “trash fish” can grow on you).

It could also be that I grew up fishing for trout. They’re the home team, if you will. Maybe that’s why I always come back to trout, no matter how far I wander in search of something “better.”