by Jeannie Swales
As the gilded lettering on the glass case so clearly tells us, this brown trout was caught by W.J. Clarke in the River Derwent at Forge Valley on Tuesday 10 July 1928, and weighed in at 3lbs 4ozs.
A handwritten label on the back of the case offers up more information: “This fish was caught on a small Alexandra fly, and 4 x gut. It took 15 minutes to land. An examination of its scales showed that it was 5½ years old, and had spawned twice during its lifetime.”
The Alexandra is a green, red and silver fishing fly introduced in the mid 1800s and originally known as the Lady of the Lake (a reference to the fact that it was considered more suitable for lake than river fishing, so an interesting choice by Clarke) – it was later renamed in honour of Queen Alexandra. ‘4 x gut’ refers to the gauge of the fishing line used – in those days it would have literally been made from animal intestines, most likely sheep or goat gut.
William James Clarke (1871-1945) was the son of Richard Clarke, who founded the long-running Scarborough soft drinks company Clarke’s Aerated Waters and Bottling Company Ltd in 1889.
After leaving school Clarke was a founder member of the Scarborough
Field Naturalists’ Society, becoming President for the first time at the age of 23. He went on to be President a further four times, was Secretary in 1895 and held that same post for 11 years between 1902 and 1913. He was a committee member as late as 1943, just two years before his death.
Clarke ran a shop dealing in natural history specimens, fishing tackle and taxidermy at 44 Huntriss Row and was a member of the Derwent Anglers Club, which was founded in 1839, and is still active in both fishing and managing the waters today.
You can still walk down the boardwalks at Forge Valley and catch glimpses of the native brown trout in the Derwent, as well as the rainbow trout, introduced from North America.
This trout is one of three similar specimens all caught by Clarke and held in the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects acquired by the Borough over the years.
If you’d like to see them, or any other of the objects in the Collections, please contact Head of Collections Karen Snowden on 01723 384506, or Karen.email@example.com