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Fight for Fight

The debate that will never go away: browns versus rainbows for fighting qualities. Seeing as you fish NZ and the UK, I ask as you would have a wider perspective. I have caught few browns, ranging from a pound up to five. In lakes and rivers. North Isalnd and South island. Not one has jumped. But that isnt a major point for me so much as the actual fights are just boring. Except (of course there is one exception) for a 5 lber that took off on a long run in lake Rotorua, they dont run either. A few days ago on the Rangiteki in a heavy current (hooked on a spinner, I confess, as water was clearing after rain). The fish was above a major piece of impassable white water. It just thrashed about a foot from the bank and writhed like an eel, trying to swim backwards! Even my kids were surprised by its behaviour. That was a 4.5lb male in great condition. I ran down stream of him and seeing as he didnt try to run the rapids I beached him in under a minute from hook up. It's just the latest example from my files going back fifteen years. I know the general central north island opinion is that big browns are a challenge to hook but for fighting rainbows leave them for dead any day of the week. Have you noticed this pattern yourself in NZ - I'm beginning to wonder if it's regional genetic strains rather than geographic influences per se. I have a friend ( a real fisho scientist type) who has had the same experience. Browns may be harder to hook, (and that maybe due to lower numbers rather than wariness) but they lose the race after once the barb hits home. Any comments?


Mark Hoffman

Paul answers

Hi Mark,

I would certainly agree with your comments with regards to New Zealand. Apart from the odd exception rainbows do fight far harder and more dramatically than browns. I have had some excellent fights from browns hooked in shallow areas (top of South Mavora spings to mind) and the odd one which has decided to make for the sea (I once hooked a brown on the Okuru which ran deep and held station, drowning my flyline in the process and subsequently spooling me), but on the whole I would much rather hook a rainbow.

Not so in England. There I'd much rather hook a brown trout. For one thing almost all the rainbows in England are stocked at one point or another and very few of them overwinter. Although rainbows can fight very well on the large reservoirs, they don't fight anything like as well as the NZ rainbows. In the UK the actual fight is less important than the deception. A 50 yrd run is really exceptional. In NZ hooking the fish is when the fun begins.

I really can't say whether the browns give up so easily in the UK, because the size comparisons just don't match. The largest wild brown trout I have caught in the UK has been just over one and three-quarter pounds. I seriously doubt whether I have had fish this small in NZ (possibly on the Mataura); the 4, 5 and 6 lb backcountry averages are actually met with disbelief in England!

I had this conversation with a friend recently:

Sean: I've been reading a lot of the old guys recently, especially Skues, and it makes you wonder...
You know he fished on the Itchen for 60 years and never caught a 4lb trout? I caught one the first time I fished there, which makes you realise what we've done to our rivers...

Paul: It's very sad. Actually it's much worse that this.

Sean says: I know, but it really made me think. I doubt that anyone still alive really remembers how good our fishing used to be, or what it really means to have clean water and wild fish.

Seatrout (which are the migratory brown trout we have in the UK - 'sea-runs') fight like blazes and I read recently, that the batch of rainbow trout ova that consituted the first successful NZ stocking of rainbows, actually came from a batch of Steelhead... so maybe genetics plays a part.

I'll send this one to the bulletin board and see what happens

Best regards,

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