Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

" *

third with those small dark-coloured water-flies which are to be found moving about on the surface, under banks and sheltered places. The trout fed with worms grew slowly and had a lean appearance; those nourished on minnows, which, it was observed, they darted at with great voracity, became much larger; while such as were fattened upon flies only, attained, in a short time, prodigious dimensions, weighing twice as much as both the others together, although the quantity of food swallowed by them was in no wise so great. Whatever may be the fact, we are certainly inclined to think, from all that has been advanced by naturalists, that opinions as to different species and varieties should only be formed upon the surest grounds, and should not be received without the greatest caution. What can be said of the opinion of ordinary folks, when even a professed naturalist tells us that “the various names of common trout, sea trout, and salmon trout apply only to differences arising from age, sex, season, the character of the water, and the sorts of food which they can procure.” With due deference to this learned authority, we will remark that the names of sea trout and salmon trout are

[blocks in formation]

undoubtedly synonymous, and apply to a wellknown and recognised species of the migratory salmonide, but one entirely distinct from salmo fario, the common trout, which, unlike the sea or salmon trout, never changes its abode from the fresh water.

The size of river trout, which, in a general sense, is characteristic of neither species nor variety, varies considerably in different localities and under different circumstances. In brooks the trout of the largest size are seldom above six ounces, while in rivers favourable to their growth, and protected from poachers, they often reach as many pounds. The Thames, among other streams, often produces gigantic specimens—as large as twelve and fourteen pounds; and in many of the rivers of Hampshire, Wilts, and Dorset, they are often taken of five or six pounds. Occasionally the capture of some veritable monster becomes the subject of record, as, for instance, a specimen taken in 1824 in the river Clist, near Topsham, Devon, by a Mr. Hall of that town, which measured thirty-four inches in length and twenty in girth, and weighed more than twenty-three pounds. We have seen an engraving of this portly individual, which, if faithfully represented, must have been a splendid specimen. Many other Brobdig

nagian trout have been chronicled in works on natural history. Mr. Yarrell describes one of twenty-five pounds “ that was captured on the 11th of January, 1822, in a little stream ten feet wide, branching from the Avon, at the back of Castle Street, Salisbury.” It is, however, by no means clear to us that these extraordinary specimens were all really common trout, for the evidence is doubtful in some cases, owing to the uncertainty about the ability of their captors to distinguish between the large migratory and other species. But an instance has come under our own knowledge which cannot admit of dispute, for the water in which were captured the specimens of which we shall speak is miles from the sea, and has not the slightest communication with it through any of its numerous feeders. We refer to the reservoir of the canal at Chard, in Somersetshire, a piece of water covering some seventy acres, in which common trout weighing six and eight pounds were taken with the net within two years after its construction; and one was found dead on the bank, about the same period, which weighed more than a dozen pounds. These fish must have been supplied from the neighbouring tributary 'brooks, in which a trout above six inches long is perhaps never seen; and they afford additional

proof — if such were wanting-of the physical peculiarity of fish, the growth of which, under favourable circumstances, has no limit, and is of marvellous rapidity. Not only so, but perhaps they throw some light upon the formation of species and varieties, by showing the probability of the Great Lake Trout, which sometimes reaches thirty or forty pounds, being traceable to an equally humble ancestry—increased in size, and altered in conformation by peculiar circumstances, and stamped at last with permanent characteristics, transmitted through successive generations.

But we must leave these extraordinary specimens, a further consideration of which would not only be foreign to our object, but be likely to convey to our inexperienced pupils a far too exalted idea of the kind of game they are likely to capture. Ordinary river trout seldom exceed two pounds, and a fish of half that size will be considered large when it is stated that the general weight is not above six or eight ounces. It may, perhaps, be laid down as a general law, that open and shallow streams, flowing over a poor soil, or having their origin in poor land, or peat, produce small and insipid trout; while deeper streams, in a rich soil, and shaded at intervals with marginal

wood, produce trout of a large size and high culinary character. The difference arises from the better shelter and greater abundance of food obtainable in streams of the latter description. It is not the close and bushy river, however, which forms the perfect trout stream-as the veriest tyro in fly-fishing can testify. It is our most earnest wish to press upon

the attention of our readers the short-sighted policy and unsportsmanlike practice of basketing unsizeable fish. It is surprising to what an extent this shameful practice prevails, even among men supposed to be accomplished in the art, and interested in pursuing it fairly. One very general excuse for the killing of small fish in many rivers is, that as they bear the distinguishing finger marks, they are therefore parr -- a distinct species, say their captors, of dwarfish dimensions ;— forgetting that the young of all, even the largest of the salmonide (including, of course, the common trout), are always similarly marked. But recent discoveries show that the

parr

itself occupies by no means so insignificant a place as has hitherto been assigned to it. So far from being of trifling value, from the supposed narrow limits of its utmost size, it has been ascertained, by careful observation and conclusive experiments

« ForrigeFortsett »