Trout don't like competition with others of their kind, with predators and/or with the local surroundings. Fat trout prefer just to lie doggo and lap it up rather than struggle to access food and/or shelter from savage currents or marauders, nasty anglers included! The fish have deeply ingrained cautious instincts and when presented with something innately suspiciously threatening, their reaction is usually to turn and flee.

Caution is one thing, however high intellect is quite another. It always something of a puzzle to hear modern anglers talking of trout in terms of having cerebral qualities. Trout have brains the size of lentils yet the 'educated trout' is a phrase frequently coined by many who frankly should know better. The mind positively boggles as to where the trout got it's education; Eton, Oxford, the University of Life or just some boring old Technical College?

Sure, trout have abundant instincts for self preservation, which includes an urge to feed as much as an urge to hide from predators, but to claim a trout has a thinking analytical brain of human proportion is downright silly. Unfortunately, pick up any angling magazine today and somewhere in it there will be a reference to this super being, the educated trout. Pardon me, but if ever there was the perfect excuse for not catching fish this is it. Never mind the fact that anglers sometimes fail to adapt and fit themselves in with fish behaviour in a specific environment. The reason we failed to catch that trout was simple, it escaped because it had an education!

So how did this odd phraseology come about? History seems to dictate that anglers began to think of trout as secretive clever beasts as far back as Sir Isaac Walton, however the concept really came to the fore in the mid 1800`s when the cult of dry fly and all its idiosyncrasies grew in popularity. Though the forerunner of all fly angling i.e. wet fly had its fair share of convoluted debate, nothing could have prepared the angling world for the misinformed snobbery that arrived with the advent of dry fly purism.

The legendary FM Halford, circa mid 1800`s, propounded dry fly tactics and his name has become synonymous with its practise. He firmly believed a carefully selected natural looking upstream dry fly delicately cast over a stalked rising trout was THE way to catch fish and actually few of us would argue with that. Casting to the rise is extremely rewarding, however where he or more likely his obsessive followers went a bit askew was in their dogmatic approach. Not only was upstream dry the only way to catch fish, the trout deceived by a dry fly was always somehow better, i.e. more 'educated', than one caught on the wet. Also, because Halford wrote about his experiences of dry fly angling on clear fertile and often expensive chalk streams, the unfortunate correlation was made by others that dry fly fishing always caught trout of a superior quality. Of course this is now known to be quite wrong but these old prejudices die hard. It never ceases to amaze me the number of quizzical looks I get when I recommend a wee dry fly on a wild highland loch, but that's another story.

Halfordians were not the only ones to think their methods caught trout with a smarter education. 19th century Scottish doyens like W C Stewart and Tom Stoddart also muttered darkly about the poor showing of loch trout over river fish. Both were luminaries in river trout angling and they argued long and hard that stream trout were much more difficult to catch than loch bred fish. Naturally that made river trout infinitely smarter than the trout of stillwater. Their misguided proclamations only added fuel to the fire, as if that were needed. Instead of encouraging the belief that all trout are extremely unpredictable creatures of instinct with small brains, the image of a trout with at least a Bachelor of Arts was positively encouraged. Trout not with attitude but with an education were well and truly born by the late 19th century and have remained with us ever since.

It could be argued that anglers who fail to use their own brains to catch trout, immediately make out the fish has a correspondingly superior intelligence, but perhaps that's a little cruel. To improve catch rates it might be better, instead of thinking in terms of brain capacity, to consider the trout's weaknesses. One is a compunction to feed for however short a period each day. Another is the fact that trout are inherently greedy creatures and once engaged in feeding mode they are often tempted by just one more morsel, hopefully your fly. In addition, dominant larger trout are given to aggressive behaviour and if your fly is well presented to them they will often get in there and snatch it first before their smaller companions get a chance. Equally a fly which is not scary, i.e. one that looks and moves in a way vaguely resembling something a trout might eat, goes a lot further than one presented like a pebble in the pond.

Wild trout can be devilishly unpredictable and downright elusive but learned scholars, I don't think so...