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Should I Stay?

Should I stay or should I go? A serious question indeed! So much so that an adolescent trout may, on some rivers, go through a bit of an identity crisis. "Am I a brown trout or a sea trout?", she will ask. "Will I emigrate or stay at home?" The answer will generally depend, as it so often does, on the home environment and parental expectation.

On the short, rocky, acidic streams of the west coast, there will be little to keep the ambitious young female at home and the general expectation will be that she will go to sea as soon as she is old enough, there to make something of herself, to mature into a beautiful sea trout, who will have many suitors when she returns for her annual summer holiday. Indeed, she will, in all probability, have to fight them off. She can't really be bothered with all this sex business, though ... she thinks it's all very over-rated ... and it's always over so quickly! Still, she likes the attention and that seems to make all the travel worthwhile ... and it's always very satisfying to see the young fry when she comes home. There will always be some, however, who are just not cut out for adventure, or who are perhaps expected to follow the perfectly respectable, if slightly boring, family tradition of keeping the home fires burning, but the majority of the young females will elect to get out as soon as they can.

Most of the males, on the other hand, are pretty lazy and can't be bothered with all the hassle of moving away. They are sexually precocious and generally have there minds on only one thing. They can only get that at home, so they may as well hang around until the chance comes. It may be only once a year but, boy, is the Great October Orgy worth waiting for! It's not much fun for the rest of the year, though. Things are hard at home and all their energy is needed to keep body and soul together. Some young males will follow the young females to sea, thinking they might be missing out on something. They will eventually return, with the females, as impressive specimens, to while away their time over the long summer holiday, relaxing in the deep shady pools with the beautiful mature females. When the time comes, they will have no trouble seeing off the small brownies and will have their pick of the crop of female sea trout ... but they will often wonder if the long courtship and all that sea travel was really worthwhile. Size isn't everything, after all.

On the richer rivers of the south and east, the expectations are entirely different. Here, the brown trout are the aristocrats, the establishment. Life here is very civilised. There is plenty of everything to go round and order is maintained by a strict hierarchy based on seniority. The younger trout are very respectful and almost always give way to their elders. The young males, however, like young males everywhere, generally think of only one thing - well, two things, really ... food and sex - and can be a bit of a handful at times, especially at the back end of the year. The females are brought up to stay at home. Broadening of the horizons through travel is discouraged, although there will always be a few rebellious youngsters, usually female, often with unconventional family backgrounds, who leave home to go to sea - a case of "like mother, like daughter". They will return for the summer holidays and the Great October Orgy but will generally be shunned by the brown trout community, especially the local females who resent all the attention they get from the young males.

The wise old trout, though, are happy to see the comings and goings of these "silver tourists", as they are known locally. They remember the time of the Great Pollution when the whole river trout population was almost wiped out and only recovered through the valiant spawning effort of a few returning sea trout. They now see the emigration of the few young rebels as an insurance against any possible future domestic catastrophe.

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