Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

190 × 135 × 15 mm
192 pages
97 illustrations, 52 in colour
01 Oct 2011

Trout James Owen

Leaping effortlessly from the bright stream into the human mind, the trout captivates like no other fish. An ancient fascination that can be traced back to Stone Age cave dwellers, the trout surfaces in our diet, religion, folklore, history, science, literature and, of course, fishermen’s tales.

So why does the trout beguile us so? Taking myriad forms, the fish has a vitality and physical beauty many find irresistible, and it also brings to mind pure waters and wild places. These are the undercurrents to James Owen’s biography of the trout, which also showcases the animal as sacred fish, table fish, farmed fish, a fish of scientific investigation, of colonial conquest and middle-class aspiration, and as a symbol in Western countries of our conflicted relationship with nature.

In telling its story the author follows the trout around the world; starting in Europe and North America, he then embarks for exotic new territories with a voyage that took the creature from England to Australia in the nineteenth century. Along the way, the author encounters a cast of characters as diverse as the trout itself, from obscure British saints and flyfishing nuns, to visionary inventors, jazz singers and counterculture novelists - all united by this magical animal.

Trout will delight and surprise anglers who have ever cast a fly to it, or anyone who has ever stopped to look in the water from a bridge, hoping for a tantalizing glimpse of this very special fish.

‘There have been dozens of book about the splendours of trout (I even wrote one myself), but seldom have I read one as evocative and concise as this . . . James Owen is a pacy, eclectic author, and clearly an aficionado . . . He has an eye for quirky detail (the illustrations are notably imaginative) and there was much here that was new to me . . . This is a perfectly delicious little volume, that surely raises the bar for subsequent piscine literature. I can scarcely recommend it highly enough.’ — David Profumo, Country Life

‘[a] wonderfully diverse monograph . . . Although scientifically sound throughout, the value of Trout lies as much in its sensitive account of the part these iconic fishes have played in the cultural history of mankind. Owen's effortless prose strides across continents, in the process beguiling us with a cast of characters which includes obscure saints, fly-fishing nuns, homesick empire-builders and a louche jazz singer, all united in their love for the most beautiful of fishes.’ — TLS

‘the latest in Reaktion's superbly illustrated series of monographs. Much of the charm of James Owens book lies in its breath. A discussion of the part the trout has played in our cultural history is combined with an accurate account of its natural history. The reader meets as varied a cast of characters as has ever been brought together in a book about a fish . . . entertaining as the human stories are, the real star of Owens book is, of course, the trout itself.’ — BBC Wildlife

‘This is another excellent book in an exceptional series - a one-stop read for everything trouty . . . Owen explores the trouts tale, from sacred to sporting fish, mass-produced for the table or gloriously wild. This economical, clear and concise book very well deserves a place in the library but is small enough to fit in your pocket. You will want to read it.’ — The Field

‘[Trout] is a delight, a book to be read from cover-to-cover or to browse in during long winter evenings in front of the fire . . . handsomely designed and produced with a multitude of excellent photographs., line drawings and other illustrations. It is difficult to see how so much could have been levered so elegantly into so modest a tome . . . it really is a "must have" for every fly fisher - or for anyone with any interest in these fascinating fish.’ — Flyfishers Journal

‘This is a fascinating book . . . Owen's research has led him down some unusual paths and he has an eye for a story to be told with a dry wry wit . . . It was difficult for me to put this book down. Owens writing style is intelligent and entertaining. The information he has assembled ranges from fairly mundane to downright weird, brought together into a very unusual, highly readable and entertaining book.’ — FlyFishing& Fly Tying

‘dense with facts, anecdotes, potted histories and excellent photographs and illustrations . . . Owens research has been rigorous and thorough . . . James Owen has done a wonderful job, in a short space, documenting how the trout has permeated human life.’ — Trout and Salmon magazine

Trout, carefully documents the long and complicated history of the relationship between humans and this ubiquitous fish. In page after page of anecdotes and beautiful full-color pictures and illustrations, James Owen shows how trout have been revered, lauded, propagated, exported, scientifically altered, devoured, trashed and, finally, revived . . . the breezy prose and the amazing attention to detail and to the bizarre histories in particularl will make it of interest to almost every scholar of the complex human response to the non-human world.’ — Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE)

‘In short, this is a brilliant little miscellany of trouty facts, fictions and stuff we should all know. And, as promised, it brings the story right up to date, complete with well-footnoted discussion of the latest thinking on trout conservation and genetics, from Norways forests to Albania's Lake Ohrid, and the globe-spanning efforts of WWF, Trout Unlimited and its British equivalent, the Wild Trout Trust.’ — Theo Pike, Caught by the River online review

Show all

James Owen is a journalist and writer who (when he is not fishing for trout) is based in Stockholm, Sweden.


1. Various Trout
2. Sacred Trout
3. Imperial Trout
4. Filleted Trout
5. Desirable Trout
6. Wild Trout

Timeline of the Trout
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements