This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
June 18th, 2007

Fat Fish

How much attention do you give to the fish you (or your fishing companions) catch? I'm sure most of us can give an approximate size and a guesstimate weight - give or take a little - but what else? Specie? Well, probably. Sex? Maybe if there is spawn dribbling out, or it is a huge male with a really hooked jaw. What else?

Variation in color? Perhaps due to local conditions? Dark bottoms of lakes tend to produce fish which are darker and blend in more with their surroundings. Size of head compared to body? A large head and small body indicates the fish isn't getting enough to eat. Another term for those fish is 'snakey.' Ever notice how some trout seem to have 'mixed' markings? The most common in my experience are 'cut-bows,' which are a cross between cutthroat and rainbow trout. There are intentional cross breeds in non-trout species too.

Sometimes you will catch a fish which seems to be slack in its body, not solid and filled out. These often are spawned out fish which haven't yet recovered their weight after the spawn. In some places it isn't legal to keep or even fish for 'drop-back' fish, fish on their way back to the ocean after spawning. Atlantic salmon and steelhead fall into that classification, and if you do catch one you'll immediately see the fish just doesn't look right.

Among the trouts the coloration and markings are incredible. Colors which are difficult to explain or for that matter, almost impossible to match in paintings. The brook trout is the one 'trout' most commonly mentioned on coloration (and yes it is a char, which let's you know what common usage does to language .) We can just call it a brookie.

Our local cutthroat from the ocean are a dark green on their back with yellow spots. Cutthroats from the mountain lakes are silver, look more like a rainbow and do have the red slash under their chin. Perhaps they only have a name in common.

My favorite fish to catch on a fly has to be a bonefish. They are like shadows on the flats, their scales so mirrored they reflect their surroundings and can only be spotted by the shadow they leave on the bottom. Fast, strong, solid - with a smiling face. What more can one ask? One can hardly find a happier fish. Or for me, a happier angler.


I caught and released a nice fish, and took a break. Mostly because my arm was a little tired from playing the 19 in cutthroat on my three weight. Whatever the reason, I was just looking at the water next to the boat. We were hardly moving, Nils and JC were both casting and chatting as they fished. The oars hung loose. There had been a nice hatch earlier, some surface fish activity and it died off. We all went to sinking or wet flies then.

The closer I watched the water surface, the more I saw. Like focusing the camera, I began to see hundreds, maybe thousands of insects hatching. Tiny, very tiny little bugs, some as small as the head of a pin. And in colors. Pink, pale green, blue, white bodied bugs becoming winged. On some a whisp of shuck draped at the butt, white wings unfolded and filled with veinal fluid pumping them up. The height of the completed insect being less than a sixteenth of an inch. No hatch to match this, but a hardy (though nearly invisible) bug soup to feed the finned inhabitants of the lake. No question as to the value of the bug soup. The fish are fat, feisty and healthy. And if they are able to express half the emotion we give them, they are happy as well. ~ The LadyFisher

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