The other day an email arrived from my brother Sean. He was not full of news but a means of sharing with myself and our old fishing buddy Mark McCann, a photograph of a particularly beautiful trout caught on Lough Sheelin.

I don´t know any of the details of the trout: who caught it, how much it weighed or even when it was taken. I didn´t particularly care either. The important thing was the fish itself.

Trout and their other salmonid relatives are in a premier league of prettiness and some are so lovely that you can spend a little more time than regular folk would consider healthy and normal, examining the fine detail of their patterns.

The Lough trout of Sheelin, and many of the other big limestone loughs in Ireland, have a dense pattern of large dark spots nested in pale halos. Between the dark spots their flanks can be copper coloured or silvery but is often it is the tricks of light and the angle the fish is held that makes each image individually unique. The same fish in different photos can differ in subtle ways and, of course, you could look at wild trout your whole life and never find two that were a perfect match.

The last trout I caught were taken from the upper Guadalquivir at a place where this mighty river is no more than an intimate stream working through the mountain valleys. The stunning little trout here have their own characteristic pattern.

I suppose the contrast between these fish remind us, if we ever need reminding, that they brown trout has an almost infinite repertoire of colours and patterns and is one of the most diversely patterned species of fish

Sean´s email, with his photo of the Sheelin trout elicited a short response from Mark: Feck me that’s a beauty – fat as a fiddle – it’s heading towards Puffer Fish territory !

It got an even shorter response from me: “Beautiful.”

It is too.

They all are.


Some fella with a particularly handsome Sheelin trout. This is the picture that Sean sent me recently.


This little trout from Jaen is pretty typical of the fish we took recently. Notice the dark patch just behind the eye. These trout do grow quite a bit bigger and their coloration will change as they grow but they retain a distinctive pattern of alternating pale and dark areas along the flank which, I believe is called “zebré” markings and is characteristic of many trout from Mediterranean regions.


Pretty as a picture