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The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations
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Wild brown trout in streams are less well known than brook trout for coloring up in autumn, but many of them do (as you know). The fish that come in and out of Great Lakes tribs are certainly known for their striking orange and black hues, however small stream fish can really color up as well this time of year, especially, in my experience, in fertile freestone streams. Having spent some time over the years pondering trout coloration and trying to match it with a paintbrush, I’ve certainly come to the conclusion that the colors of autumn brown trout are more ephemeral and difficult to perceive (and paint) than the colors of brook trout. They’re heavy with reds, orange, rust, yellow, and other colors in the “warm” range but also a lot of less obvious olive, brown, and blacks. Anyway, thought I’d post some pics of a brown trout painting in progress which, quite literally, illustrates my struggle to accurately portray these colors and how they seem to divide the flank in horizontal thirds…. and then come to be overlaid with spotting and other typical small details. When many of us look at a colored up wild brown, we often think, “Wow, that’s a beautiful orange sided trout” or we note the buttery yellow flanks. Underneath the spots however, brown trout typically have three “levels” of color running their flank as can be seen in the upper pic (this pic almost looks like a palomino). In other words, when one peels back the spotting, scales, and other surface noise, we see a fish with brown and olive on the back and upper flank, a brownish/red or pinkish/maroon center stripe much like a rainbow, and a lower third of orange or deep yellow. Oftentimes the actual belly of the fish will develop black tones and the fins will darken too (although this is much more noticeable on the Great Lakes fish where the fins are often black). Folks often don’t think of a brown trout as having red on his flanks but this is actually common this time of year. The term “brown” trout is, however, well deserved as the upper body is mostly brown and remains that way seasonally. Oftentimes, especially on big fish, there is substantial olive mixed in on the back and shoulders as well. The lower pic, finished with spots and such, reveals how rather difficult it is to note the three underlying color bands. On most wild browns during most of the year, the reddish middle band is actually more silvery or just lighter than the back. The darkening up and reddish tones however are pretty common this time of year. With respect to the spots, most of the red spots on the back half of the fish will fall right along the lateral line. On the upper body and back, many browns also have reddish spots that are very faint mixed in with the more obvious spots (these aspects of spotting are pretty much the same throughout the year). Take some time to check out the next good looking brownie you get this month and you may notice that the colors are more complex than they seem at first glance.

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Posted on: 2013/11/10 16:37


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Awesome painting.

Posted on: 2013/11/10 18:05
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Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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You are very talented. I have tried to capture the many coloration's of brown trout. Your description does a great job at explaining the complicated array of colors. The amount of lighting and the angle of light reveals a kaleidoscope of colors. The point is the appreciation for the wild brown trout and it's characteristics that make us want to view one more in hand. I never get tired of looking at them and obviously you feel the same.
I have also noticed the early spring silver coloration they take on. I have caught browns with blue on the gill plate and chrome. I find this seasonal coloration also interesting. however less discussed. Thanks for posting. I do not have any advice, I believe that you have done a fantastic job at duplicating the fall coloration.

Posted on: 2013/11/10 18:11
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Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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very cool

Posted on: 2013/11/10 18:46


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Beautiful work Dave. The coloration is more complex than most of us realize at first glance. I'm sure you've also noticed and or documented the wildly varying coloration and spot patterns between different bodies of water. Put wild fish from the Letort, Penns, Spring and the Delaware side by side and they are dramatically different.

Posted on: 2013/11/10 18:49
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Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Great artwork Dave.

When I catch browns I don't see much change of color from different seasons, and I catch a lot of browns. They either have a lot of color or they are very silvery. In NC Pa there is little variation from one stream to the next and the colors are pretty good, this I blieve is because they've been in NCPA since the beginning of stocking and so have the more natural colors of the fish in Germany.
The Scottish fish look more like LL Salmon, they are very silvery and have larger spots. You just don't find those fish up north.

Posted on: 2013/11/11 8:49
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It's time to stop stocking all wild trout streams no matter what Classification they are, and time to eradicate brown trout in some of our limestone streams and re-establish brookies in them.


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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My experience is similar to Chaz. The German browns often have the gold, orange, red, and sometimes even purple/violet hues and the Scottish browns with their larger black spots are often more brown to silver in color. With all the different strains and hybrids you get some very interesting color variations. Our local German strain wild browns are often sport deep a gold color with additional orange and red colors with an overall purple cast to them. Some of the males look almost black in the water.

Posted on: 2013/11/11 9:49


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Here are some old photos that showcase some crazy autumn color and "the worst fish management...ever"! (just look at the color)

Nicely done Dave. I have a bachelors degree in fine art and have worked as a professional artist for almost 30 years (graphic design and publishing/illustration). I often wish I could get a camera to capture what I see. Attempting to recreate/paint the magical visuals presented by the fish we catch is quite challenging. Ever changing lighting and the seasonal variation can be extreme. The water color and the angle you view a fish from have greatly affect your perception. Something to truly marvel at.

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Posted on: 2013/11/11 12:43


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Quote:

Night_Stalker wrote:
Here are some old photos that showcase some crazy autumn color and "the worst fish management...ever"! (just look at the color)


Can you explain what you mean here?

Where does the quote come from?

And the relationship of fisheries management the fish color?

Posted on: 2013/11/11 14:01


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations
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Quote:

troutbert wrote:
Quote:

Night_Stalker wrote:
Here are some old photos that showcase some crazy autumn color and "the worst fish management...ever"! (just look at the color)

Can you explain what you mean here?
Where does the quote come from?
And the relationship of fisheries management the fish color?


I think he's simply referring to the fact that the fish is on a stringer rather than being released (which is a separate topic altogether) and posted these photos simply to depict colors.

Night_Stalker,
Thanks. Thinking about wild trout coloration and trying to paint them never gets boring, at least for me. The fish in the middle and upper pics you posted show the dark belly and nearly black fins so typical on Great Lakes tribs fish but that shows up from time to time on stream fish. Notice also, on the upper pic of the fish in the water....that the back and shoulders are green rather than brown as well as including the faint reddish brown spots I was alluding to.

Posted on: 2013/11/11 14:06


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Quote:

Fishidiot wrote:

I think he's simply referring to the fact that the fish is on a stringer rather than being released (which is a separate topic altogether) and posted these photos simply to depict colors.


That makes sense. Thanks. I wasn't even close.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that if you had 10 different photographers with different gear and they all photographed the same brown trout, and posted their photos side by side, the apparent colors of the trout would vary a LOT.

This was true even in the film days, because different types of film had very different color looks. And film was designed have colors that were "appealing", not "accurate."

And the same situation is certainly still true in the digital era.

I imagine painters are basing their colors on photographic records of the trout, as well as memory, so it's something keep in mind.


Posted on: 2013/11/11 15:04


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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As an individual who cannot reliably draw a stick figure on a consistent basis, let alone paint with colors, I admire those who can paint an awful lot. But that being said, those artists who attempt to paint fish realistically, and succeed at that are few and far between. I agree 100% that browns are super hard to accurately capture, and I also agree that I can't even snap a photograph that captures the range of colors and accurately captures the color palette as I see it.

Tom Sasser has painted some fish that have elements of getting the colors right (on both brooks and browns). But the brown is missing the red in the adipose, and tail. It may be an accurate depiction of the fish that was the subject he painted, but my mind sees a red adipose fine and a purple/red trace around the edge of the tail, in the perfectly painted wild brown.

Click to see original Image in a new window


FI - your's is a good take on the subject, but might actually be too yellow, especially for a smaller trout.

I think the ultimate challenge is to capture the composite brown trout - one that evokes all the memories one has of wild brown trout - red spots, red adipose fins, red/purple tracings in the tail, sharp white tracings on the other fins, sometimes a butter belly, sometimes a white belly fading to yellow, sometimes a bronze sheen cast over the entire fish, some big spots, some sparse spots, some spots with halo, some black spots. For me, the composite trout has all of those, but each trout is an individual, and it's hard to capture all of those without overloading a painting.

Which is why I'm glad we have memories that preserve all the individual pieces and individual fish that are caught...

Posted on: 2013/11/11 16:28


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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A gallery showing the enormous variation of brown trout, from the "old country", is found here:

http://www.qub.ac.uk/bb-old/prodohl/T ... n_trout_gallery_frame.htm

Notice the first photo, of the "gillaroo" trout, originally from Ireland. I think I have seen browns in PA that look very much like that.

The Wikipedia entry on Gillarro trout says that have specialized "gizzards" which allows them to make much of their diet on snails. Maybe some should be brought in and stocked in Spring Creek, to munch down on the New Zealand mud snails.

If you Google "brown trout" and then hit "Images" you will also see a lot of variety.

In PA there is tremendous variety. How much of this comes from genetics and how much from environment, I don't know.

But in general the fish from larger waters that are more open to the sun tend to be lighter in color. And the fish from waters where there is more shade tend to have deeper colors. Not just darker overall, but also with more intensity of reds, yellows, orange, etc.

Posted on: 2013/11/11 16:47

Edited by troutbert on 2013/11/11 17:03:47


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Quote:

troutbert wrote:
A gallery showing the enormous variation of brown trout, from the "old country", is found here:

http://www.qub.ac.uk/bb-old/prodohl/T ... n_trout_gallery_frame.htm

Notice the first photo, of the "gillaroo" trout, originally from Ireland. I think I have seen browns in PA that look very much like that.

The Wikipedia entry on Gillarro trout says that have specialized "gizzards" which allows them to make much of their diet on snails. Maybe some should be brought in and stocked in Spring Creek, to munch down on the New Zealand mud snails.

If you Google "brown trout" and then hit "Images" you will also see a lot of variety.

In PA there is tremendous variety. How much of this comes from genetics and how much from environment, I don't know.

But in general the fish from larger waters that are more open to the sun tend to be lighter in color. And the fish from waters where there is more shade tend to have deeper colors. Not just darker overall, but also with more intensity of reds, yellows, orange, etc.

There is a lot of color variation that has nothing to do with fall and everything to do with the genetics of the fish. Where they come from and how long a strain has been in a particular stream has much more influence than time of the year. Having said that, they do get more color in the fall, but I think anglers tend to exagerate it, it has more to do with the angle of light hitting the fish than coloring up for the spawn. I can take 10 photos of the same fish and only get one that illustrates what I see.

Posted on: 2013/11/11 17:14


Re: The Coloration of Wild Browns in Autumn - Some Thoughts and Observations

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Not being a smart ass but the best paintings I've seen of fall brownies and coloured up atlantic salmon are Impressionist in style rather than imitative.

I think the human eye and brain is too organised to create the random colours and dispersement of tones that nature creates on these two species in fall, and instead creates a pattern or sequence that we recognise but know is not quite what we saw/see.

Which as they are wild living things is maybe as they should be....

I know myself, having caught 50 or so salmon over thirty years and dozens of wild fall brownies up to 6 1/2 lbs, that in the photographs the fish never look like what I saw, or what I think I saw.

Sea run brown trout the same - on some days what you see as lilac or lavender, photographs as steely blue, in the fall the pink and rose tints just don't photograph.

So the pictures I like capture the essence of a fall fish rather than try and accurately reproduce them.

I guess I see trout paintings the way a trout may see a tyed fly huh ?

Cheers

GB

Posted on: 2013/11/11 20:58
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