Sparctic trout - by Peter Cockwill
THE more I fish and the longer I live then the more I become interested in the fish themselves. I am convinced that there are fish yet to be born that I will one day catch. Maybe that’s why I am always keen to look at fish farms and learn more of the skills that our dedicated farmers use to produce the high quality trout we love to catch.
It was a visit to Torre Trout Farms in Somerset that prompted this feature to update readers on the sometimes complex variety of fish we can expect to come across at the wide range of fisheries available to us all.
An employee-owned business, the partners at Torre have used their knowledge and experience to produce an impressive range of the more ‘unusual’ stock fish while still keeping true to the better known rainbow and brown trout.
Striking good looks of the ‘blue’
There’s no doubt that rainbow trout will remain the dominant stock fish for most stillwaters, with browns a popular extra, but the talking point in flyfishing these past few years has been the introduction of ‘blues’. This beautiful variation of the rainbow is deservedly popular for its striking good looks and is often credited with a stronger fight than the original form. Something a little different adds variety and fisheries that offer their customers an extra incentive to visit will inevitably be more successful and our amazing fish farmers are certainly on top of the game.
When the ‘blue’ came along there was also the golden form of the rainbow, which somehow didn’t quite make its mark, possibly because some of them were a bit lacklustre. That’s set to change as the farmers have improved the strain and stunningly beautiful golds are becoming available. There’s also the ‘sandy’ which is a gold strain of the blue. Crossing blues and golds makes an even more interesting range of colours but we must remember that all of these fish are but colour variants of the basic rainbow, whereas hybrids involve crossing two separate species.
The tiger trout – a cross between our brown trout and the American brook trout – has been around for some time and is very pretty. There aren’t many brook trout left in the UK to make the cross but fertilised tiger eggs are coming in from Europe and we are destined to see more of this lovely hybrid.
Although we have resident char in many of the more northern, deeper lakes, in recent years some adventurous waters have stocked with a farmed strain of the Arctic char. This cold water species is making its mark and has some beautiful colour phases as breeding time approaches.
Char and brook trout cross
Now there’s set to be a newcomer on the scene in the form of the Sparctic. This is a cross between the Arctic char and brook trout and is again imported as fertilised eggs. It shows the typical spots of the Arctic as well as the lovely markings of the brook and this mix of char will be a feature stock for the cooler months.
None of these ‘specials’ will ever be available at the same cost per pound as rainbows and Torre have recognised this by marketing some of them in with a batch of rainbows and by being able to do up to four individual deliveries on any one day throughout the south.
It takes a bit of coordination between fisheries but it means that more waters will be able to stock with some variety and if a fishery has its own stock ponds it will more easily be able to trickle stock these more unusual fish.
Interestingly, for me anyway, the char family is able to be crossed with other salmonids and the Arctic can mix with the brown. This ‘Arctic brown’ was around a few years back but didn’t quite hit it off here although it’s popular in Denmark and I suspect we’ll soon see some again. I had a couple from Chalk Springs fishery in Sussex and I get to catch lots of true char each summer in Alaska.
Although technically there’s two types – the Dolly Varden and Arctic, there’s also the brookie, the lake trout and the bull trout to complete the list of char. The Dolly is a stunner and I love their amazing range of colours from the delicate silver with lilac spots of the sea run, migratory version through to the intense orange red and black of the male in its spawning phase. The more you look into the char family and their ability to evolve into separate ‘races’ in one location the more fascinating they become.
The very biggest come from the high Arctic with the Tree river in Nunavet holding the world record at 33lb. Around 10 years back I had a 21-pounder from there and doubt I will ever better that, although I do now want a Sparctic, which will complete my list of the possible stocked species and hybrids from the UK. Maybe the next challenge will be one of our native char and even a powan or vendace.
New species create interest
I hope that this news update will tempt you to be a little more adventurous as it’s opening up a whole new interest in stillwater fisheries. There’s no doubt we owe a lot to those dedicated guys who rear the sh we catch and who take the gamble to introduce something different.
The partners at Torre have made an impact for fisheries in the south and there’s more info at www.torretroutfarms.com
A search of the web or by simply asking around, you’ll be surprised as to just how many sources there are for ‘different’ stock fish. For example, Damerham Fisheries in Hampshire is credited for its Damerham blues, while the north is well served by Northern Trout. Also it was only recently that we ran a feature on the tiger trout being stocked into Palm Springs, also the only venue for stillwater salmon.
I hope you appreciate the variety of fish now offered. Go catch them!