In Defense of Trout, Where I Belong

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As Gorgeous As They Come Photo by Louis Cahill

As Gorgeous As They Come Photo by Louis Cahill


and in the way steelheaders say, “I don’t fish for trout.” I’ve heard carp guys call them “trash fish.” Bass guys just call them, “bait.” In some circles it borders on contempt.

Where did this come from?

How did it happen?

When did trout stop being cool?

I’ll throw a fly at just about anything that swims. “Hey Homie, we got poons,” is all I have to hear to put my ass in the drivers seat of the Subaru for sixteen hours any day of the year. Stripers, bones, musky, snook, bass, cuda, carp, shark. I’ll fish for catfish if you give me enough to drink but if you told me tomorrow that I could only do one kind of fishing for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t even have to stop and think. Trout! I bare no shame for it.

Yet, among the hip fly fishing crowd, that’s less and less the case. Some how, in the never ending quest to be cooler than the next guy the trout has lost favor. Even though it is the trout who brought the vast majority of fly anglers to first lift a rod, and it’s the trout who gets ninety-nine percent of the fly fishing ink on both page and arm, and it’s the trout who throws the fiscal coal on the furnace of the fly fishing industry, like a bunch of Peters, these guys deny him.

A good friend who has fallen in love with tarpon after years as a trout guide told me, “I’m done catching bait fish.” A buddy I lost to musky says he “doesn’t care if he ever sees another trout.” Eight out of ten steelheaders will not even admit that a steelhead is a trout. My own brother, who kisses bass before easing them back in the water has told me, “if we’re going trout fishing I want to take some home for supper.”

Well here’s some news for you guys. An educated trout is harder to feed than a tarpon and a whole lot smarter than a steelhead. Pound for pound he’ll fight twice as hard as a musky and the world record trout is twice the size of his counterpart in the bass hall of fame. What’s more I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a creature more beautiful than a wild trout. Certainly not a carp!

I’m sure I have more than a few of you boiling over by now. Sure, I know that I’m overstating my case. Whipping up a bunch of drama over nothing. Most fly anglers love trout and I’m in good company but the detractors are out there and it’s a shame.

I’m guilty too. I take my trout for granted from time to time. Catch me just back from a bonefish trip or in the middle of tarpon season and you’d think I’d turned my back on trout too. Even when I’m catching them I’ll lose interest sometimes. I’ll turn back a dozen stockers with out even really looking at them. I did it just the other day, and then something happened. The little guy in the photo above ate my fly.

Easily the smallest fish of the day. He barely put a bend in my rod and was to hand in seconds, but when I looked at him, I fell in love all over again. I forgot all about the bonefish and the tarpon. This was the reason I got up in the dark and drove three hours to stand in the river in miserable cold. This was the reason I’ve spent half my life in a car or an airplane. This was why I’ve never had a job and a steady pay check. This beautiful, fragile, fleeting moment when I hold the swimming jewelry in my hand.

That’s how I am. I’ll flirt with the cute little twenty year old waitress but I always go home to my wife. ‘Cause that’s where I belong.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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39 thoughts on “In Defense of Trout, Where I Belong

  1. Boiling over? Hell no. I am a trout fisherman who is happy these guys are turning up their noses and spending their time somewhere else. Yesterday I fished a mile and a half of north Georgia river and caught a bunch of these so-called spurned fish and did not see another person on the water. As KC said: “That’s the way I like it.”

  2. I love to fish you name the means, where and the how…fly fishing for trout is just my pleasure and the easiest for me to do on a regular basis.

  3. Sad day when we have to defend trout! Most of us would probably agree with Rolf Nylinder’s statement “A trout is not just a trout, it’s a trout!”

    I think the branching out from our trout fishing roots is just the natural course of things. Not that we get bored with trout, but we just always want to try new things and excel at them. So we tend to drift away from where we started. And that’s not all bad, I don’t think anyone would say it is. It’s nice that as the sport grows there are so many niches that guys and gals can find for themselves. What’s sad is, as you said, when people start to trash the fish we all love!

  4. I like trout just as much as the next guy, but here in NE Ohio, the options are a few private clubs, stockers in some of the metropark ponds or spending at least a couple hours in the car to get to PA or a few small sections of the Mad River or Mohican. Therefore, steelhead, large and small mouth bass, panfish, suckers and carp are what allows me to grab a rod after work and get a line wet for a little while. The little native brookies in PA are just about the prettiest things I’ve ever seen swimming though.

  5. Here Here! In SA the Trout are in the minority, and most of the country is too warm, too polluted, too silted up etc. So you can fish for bass and in the salt, or for carp anywhere anytime, but Trout will always be the fish of the pristine mountain settings.

  6. Pass the butter please 🙂 There is no doubt you’re a better man than me but it’s really not my fault. They taste as good as they look. You know I put my trout back.

  7. Pingback: Tippets: In Defense of Trout, Tracking Arapaima, Learning to Double Haul | MidCurrent

  8. I fish for lots of different species of fish. Size matters to me but only in relation to how well my tackle matches the size of my quarry. After 43 years of fly fishing for everything from panfish to tarpon, casting a dry to a rising trout continues to be an extremely satisfying pursuit!

  9. You know what one of the coolest things about a “trout set” is? When you see that break in the surface and your dry fly disappears, it is the sound your line makes when you lift that rod to set. That peeling sound the line makes as it rips off the water from the rod all the way tot he leader. I can’t describe the actual sound in words, but you know what I’m talking about. That sound is pretty awesome.

  10. My trout buds are all going this way as well, and it bugs me (haha). Stripers, Tarpon, Redfish, Carp, etc are all the rage. Yes the fish can be bigger, yes it is fun, but trout fishing stirs emotions that are deeper than a hard pull on the end of a 10 weight. Like being on a river with the fog lifting in the morning while watching a large rise form under that overhang branch that you know so well. Or the energy when a good hatch really gets going. Or when the line makes that noise that Jeff M talks about. Someone needs to come up for a name for that.

    • It’s an interesting thing how fish get fashionable. It’s great, in that it introduces us to new species that we might not have fished otherwise. It’s the “I’m so cool” factor that bugs me. Your not cool, just trendy.

  11. It is OK because most trout waters have more pressure than a good trout fishery can stand. So, please fall in love with another fishery and give the trout a break.

  12. Egos are always present where humans are, and egos sell merchandise.
    That’s ok. More people dis trout and the river will be less crowded for the rest of us.

  13. With all due respect, those of us who live in warm and salty locales admonish our fishing breathren not to “trout set” is because it is the single best way to not hook those sexy devils that live on the saltwater flats! I absolutely love trout and spend several weeks each and every year catching as many as is humanly possible. Truth be told, I have had more than a few guides yell at me to trout set and it takes me several days to not strip set…

    That does not seem to work very well with a 7x tippet.

  14. I am trying to get into spey casting, and one of the things I!love about it is that sound of the line ripping off the water during a well executed spey cast. So I know exactly what you’re talking about. A great sound, whether you’re setting up the forwArd cast, or striking at a rise. One of life’s simple pleasures.

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