SI Vault
Cecil Heacox
April 30, 1956
This finicky feeder is the dry fly purist's greatest challenge and a proof that even for a fish America is the land of opportunity
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April 30, 1956

The Brown Trout: A Success Story

This finicky feeder is the dry fly purist's greatest challenge and a proof that even for a fish America is the land of opportunity

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There would seem to be little in these simple life-history facts to anger fishermen, but resentment against the newcomer continued to mount. As the conflict in the brown trout story came into sharper focus, a piscatorial poll of the day would have shown the thinking shaped up like this:

The brown trout did not bite as readily as the brook. Dislike was a natural reaction of frustrated anglers. The brown trout grew much larger than the brook trout. These larger fish were even harder to catch. More frustration.

Stomach analyses often revealed fish, even brook trout, so sportsmen added fuel to the fire by condemning the brown as a cannibal. Furthermore, the brown trout not only grew larger but in streams where brook trout were also present the brown soon took over. Fishermen, notorious sentimentalists, grieved over the displacement of a native American species.

To add insult to injury, anglers and self-acclaimed gourmets convinced themselves that after all their hard work of outwitting the brown it just didn't taste as good as the brook.

But in these troubled waters the brown continued to thrive and multiply. There was no doubt about it: like it or not, the brown was here to stay. Fishermen had to learn to live with the critter. As they became better acquainted with the fish, the foreigner began to be appreciated and accepted, reluctantly at first but finally with downright enthusiasm.

A strange thing had happened. The very qualities that first condemned the brown trout eventually brought about its popularity.

That same wily elusiveness that had so maddened anglers became a challenge, and in meeting it they learned respect for their quarry. Fishermen decided its lack of cooperation was due not to stubbornness but a high IQ. Psychologically, this new admiration for the brown was probably a form of self-flattery but nonetheless satisfying: smart fish, smarter fisherman.

The factor that cast the deciding vote was the brown's ability to adapt to the changing physical conditions of the streams. In higher water temperatures, with indiscriminate timbering, pollution, increased fishing pressure, improved angling techniques—all concomitants of the country's rapid development—the brown not only survived but flourished. The more delicate brook trout received the final coup de grace largely because its habitat requirements were more exacting than those of the brown.

The ability of the brown to survive in water temperatures up to 80� while the brook turns belly up at 76� was the final clincher.

The brown trout took over the conqueror's role with the modest assurance of the invincible. It was introduced into at least 42 states and most of the Canadian provinces. In the Batten Kill of Vermont, the Ausable of New York, the Brodheads of Pennsylvania, the Pere Marquette of Michigan, the Brule of Wisconsin, the Gunnison of Colorado, the Madison of Montana and a host of others, the brown has added glory to the art of angling.

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