I don´t know if a watercolour painting is ever really finished or whether you just reach a point at which continuing with it might do more harm than good. The other day I showed Catriona the picture of the trout I had been painting and she said that it looked fine to her and that maybe I ought to leave it alone.

She is probably right. Making a watercolour painting is like building a house of cards. If you go for an extra level it might all crash down.

The subject of the painting was a brown trout of a kind that you might catch in a mountain lough we used to visit. If you have a few browns under your belt, and it doesn´t take very many, you will know that they are extraordinarily varied in their appearance. Our “mountain trout” though have quite similar markings although, on close inspection, each is as unique as a fingerprint.

My son Leo caught one of these things in 2009 and it was his first trout. He took it on a little deer hair sedge and I decided that it might be nice to commemorate the event by making a watercolour painting. To be honest, it was not a truthful representation of his particular fish but more of a generic portrait of the mountain lough fish.

Every now and then I sit down with my paint brushes and, despite there being an infinite range of subjects to paint, I always seem to settle for a trout. And, more often than not, it is one of these mountain fish that comes to mind. Those of us who have been up there know these fish well. They are the dark-flanked fish that Leo, my brother Sean, our friend Mark and I have slogged up a boggy mountainside reach.

It was only when I was instructed to leave well enough alone by Catriona that I thought of comparing the portrait of Leo´s trout, painted ten years ago with my most recent effort. During that time the trout I had evolved and it had become more real, at least to my eye. It attempted to suggest more fully the complexity of colour that real fish possess which, I fully realise, I will never be able to recreate however many decades I play this particular game.

A lot has happened over that ten year spell. Leo, in particular has changed. The skinny school kid who cast that home-tied dry fly out onto the mountain lough is now a fully fledged graduate who dresses in a business suit and commutes by tube to works in central London. For me, less has changed. I am just a little greyer, a little slower, and possibly a little wiser.

And the trout? To be honest, we have not been back to visit them for a few years. It is a bit of a hike to get to them and few people take the trouble. I imagine that they continue to swim around undisturbed in the peaty waters of the lough and that they look every bit as pretty as ever. 

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Getting better! When I look at this I see there is a lot wrong with it but things seem to be going in the right direction.

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This was my first shot at this fish. Kate Jackson was kind enough to write out the words beneath the picture.

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We caught a good number of these trout. This one was the biggest and was caught by Mark McCann a few years ago.