Trout Talk

What species is the 'fish of your lifetime?'

Brook trout might be the most stunning of all, but are they the ‘fish of a lifetime?’ All photos by Chris Hunt.

I’ve spent a lifetime chasing trout along the spine of the continent. Save for about 10 of my 52 years, where I’ve lived elsewhere due to circumstance or obligation, my views have always included at least one prominent stretch of the American Rockies. 

Trout should be, without reservation, the “fish of my lifetime.” Hell, I’ve spent the better part of two decades working for an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring trout and their habitat. It’s a no-brainer, right?

And yet it’s a question I struggle with, and I struggle often. 

A westslope cutthroat from southern British Columbia.

There’s no question that, for the region I’ve called home for the vast majority of my life, the trout defines the angling tapestry. From tailwater rainbows, high-country cutthroats, big-river browns and small-stream brookies, trout (and char) are the fish synonymous with the landscape. Sure, we’ve got bass in our low-country lakes and rivers, and a host of introduced species ranging from walleye to tiger muskies in our irrigation impoundments, but, by and large, when you go fishing in the Rockies, you go fishing for trout.

It’s entirely possible that my ‘fish of a lifetime’ is still out there. And no, I don’t mean that one single fish — the ‘catch’ of a lifetime. I’m talking about the fish that defines me as an angler … the fish I think of when I decide to go fishing.

But, going back to when I was a kid in possession of a noodly white fiberglass casting rod and a banana-seat bicycle, I’ve also put in time casting for carp. Yes. Rangy, burly, homely carp. And for years now, I’ve devoted weeks at a time in the boreal north chasing giant pike on the fly. A few years back, I discovered the bowfin of the blackwater swamps of the Southeast, and don’t get me started on the bonefish of the Caribbean that I didn’t start chasing until much later in life. 

And there are others that sated my thirst for fishing, from the bluegill and bream that I pulled from under docks and pilings in East Texas lakes to tailing redfish in the marshes of south Louisiana. There are still others I long to pursue — the peacock bass and the golden dorado of the Amazon basin, the giant taimen of the Mongolian steppe, the Murray cod of the Australian highlands. 

Tarpon from Ascension Bay, Mexico.

It’s entirely possible that my “fish of a lifetime” is still out there. And no, I don’t mean that one single fish — the “catch” of a lifetime. I’m talking about the fish that defines me as an angler … the fish I think of when I decide to go fishing.

And, very likely, that’s trout. But in two weeks, as I’m walking a flat off the coast of an outer island somewhere far away from the manicured beaches of Nassau, I may decide that the wily bonefish is that fish. Or come mid-May, when I’m watching for rattlers along the bank of the Snake River in southern Idaho on my way to cast to tailing carp, I may decide that these beefy Asian transplants are the fish of my lifetime.

Call me a dilettante if you must, but I’m looking at this conundrum from the best possible perspective. I’m not done living. How can I pick my fish of a lifetime yet?

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