Fly-Fishing History: How the British Brought Brown Trout Around the World


Written by: Phil Monahan


It always amazes me that trout have been introduced in so many places across the globe. When I was in Tasmania a few years ago, I visited Salmon Ponds, built in 1861 and the oldest trout-rearing facility in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s a little museum there that explains how the English managed to transport brown trout so far.

They’d pack salmon and trout eggs in ice in the hold of a ship, which had to make the months-long journey around Cape of Good Hope and halfway around the world. The first time they tried it, all the eggs perished en route, so they tried again. The second attempt also failed. But so desperate were the English in Tasmania to recreate their home angling experience that they wouldn’t give up. Finally, on the third attempt, the ship arrived in time, and the fishery was born. Check out the video above to see what Tasmania offers today.


The Salmon Ponds hatchery has a park-like atmosphere.
Photo via flickr

It reminds me of the King of Swamp Castle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up.”

The trout raised in the hatchery were then carried on horseback to lakes and rivers all over the island. Tasmania now has several incredible and unique fisheries. In the Western lakes, you can even sight-fish to cruising double-digit browns. The salmon, on the other hand, were a disappointing failure: once released, they went out to sea and never returned.

The British Empire has much to be ashamed about, but anglers in many different countries owe their sporting lives to the Brits. You can learn a lot more about the history of trout in Tasmania at the Salmon Ponds Web site.

Click here for my article about traveling to Tasmania, over on Midcurrent.

14 thoughts on “Fly-Fishing History: How the British Brought Brown Trout Around the World

  1. Steven

    Very interesting stuff Phil–I think An Entirely Synthetic Fish should also be read by any American trout enthusiast, and Behnke’s essays in On Trout also shed light on the scientific footprint of the extremes sportspeople have gone to to put fish where we think they ought to be.

    Reply
    1. Colin Jordan

      “The British Empire has much to be ashamed of”… it must be nice to come from a nation that has no blemishes in its history .Not a comment i would have expected from ORVIS.
      Colin.

      Reply
      1. Phil Monahan Post author

        Colin (and trout_bum below),

        I apologize if this comment offended you. That was not my intent. I would argue that all empires have much to be ashamed of. My reason for including that comment in this piece was to keep the focus on the trout history and head off any larger discussions of the British Empire on Tasmania. It seems as if, in the process of heading off one unpleasant debate, I unintentionally started another.

        Reply
  2. Mark

    Love the video and the fish. Believe me, I love that we also have access to brown trout. However, while we celebrate them, as this video does, aren’t they invasive species?

    Reply
  3. Rob Heal

    Love the Monty Python reference. If the Brits do have anything to be ashamed of, all is forgiven with The Holy Grail.
    Happy Hunting,
    Rob

    Reply
  4. Dennis koers

    Yeah, it was a dumb statement. Britain’s contributions far outweigh their misdeeds. Let’s all get along and go fishing!!

    Reply
  5. Cabins at Lopstick

    I love this!! It captures a lot of beauty and energy. Thank you for the share!
    Lopstick Staff

    Reply

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