An interesting thing about knife collecting is that there are no hard, fast rules as to how a given knife is categorized. Most often, it is a matter of, “I’ll know it when I see it.” Even that doesn’t always pan out, as there are many who might look at a historically accurate Bowie knife and not recognize it as such, given that it is missing the sweeping clip point profile that became prominent on later iterations.
This is absolutely the case when it comes to the bird-and-trout knife. You could ask 10 people to describe one to you, and odds are that no two will be identical. There may be some similarities in terms of size and overall style, but that’s about it. On the other hand, if you held up a bird-and-trout model from, say, Cold Steel or Bark River Knives, most knife folks would agree right off that those are definitely B&T knives, even though they look very different from one another.
So, what makes a knife a bird-and-trout knife?
BIRD-AND-TROUT KNIFE DESIGN CUES
A B&T knife is one that is designed primarily for processing birds, fish, and small game, such as squirrels and rabbits. We’re not talking about a large camp knife, but something much smaller. The B&T is a fixed-blade knife that is slim and trim. The blade is usually 2 or 3 inches long, and it’ll be pretty narrow, all the better for dealing with small critters. Most often, the blade profile will be a drop point or a trailing point.
“The bird-and-trout knife also makes for a great woods knife… to… do a bit of light carving or whittling, and even some food prep.”
Some varieties look similar to what you’d find in a kitchen paring knife, actually, though the bird-and-trout will usually have a sharper point as well as a larger handle. Same basic concept, though.
Speaking of the handle, while the blade is short and thin, that might not be the case with the other end of the knife. See, you want something that is easy to manipulate, particularly in wet conditions. That being the case, the B&T handle is often a bit larger than you’d anticipate. There is, though, sort of a subset of bird-and-trout knives that goes in the other direction, handle-wise. Some models have nothing more than a thin tang ending in a ring with no handle scales at all. The idea with this variant is that you can loop the ring on your pinky finger and let the knife dangle from your hand as you work with the animal or fish, swinging the blade into position as needed.
- Summing up, we have:
- Fixed-blade knife
- Blade length runs 2 or 3 inches
- Slim and narrow profile
- Drop-point or trailing-point blade shape
- Comfortable handle
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like the recipe for an ideal EDC knife, especially if you couple it with a great sheath. Personally, I’m quite fond of carrying a small fixed-blade for my daily carry knife, especially if I’m able to pocket it rather than always keeping it on my belt. Sue me, I like options.
The bird-and-trout knife also makes for a great woods knife, something you carry on your belt or in your pack to help with harvesting wild edibles, maybe do a bit of light carving or whittling, and even some food prep. They’re lightweight and often punch well above their weight class in terms of versatility. Even if you’re not out there nabbing quail and bluegill on the regular, this might be a great knife for you.
Let’s take a look at a few options in the bird-and-trout category.
COLD STEEL BIRD-AND-TROUT
This is precisely what first comes to mind for many people when you mention the bird-and-trout knife. At just 0.8 ounce, it is nearly weightless. When you grip the knife, your pinky instinctively slides into the ring on the handle, keeping the knife secure in your grip. The drop-point blade is razor sharp and the tip is like a needle. In keeping with the simplicity theme, the blade has a full flat grind, nothing fancy.
“…I’m quite fond of carrying a small fixed-blade for my daily carry knife, especially if I’m able to pocket it rather than always keeping it on my belt.”
It comes with a Secure-Ex sheath that is unadorned with any sort of clip or belt attachment. As packaged, it is intended to be carried as a neck knife, as it comes with a bead chain. However, any number of aftermarket accessories are available for purchase so as to carry this on a belt.
Alternately, the sheath has a number of attachment points that could be used to affix it to a pack strap or something similar. Or, y’know, you could just toss it in your pocket and be done with it. The sheath is sort of a friction-fit design, without any sort of strap or lock holding the knife in place. Because the knife is so light, I wouldn’t be concerned about it just falling out on its own accord, even if it gets bumped around a bit. However, if something were to snag that ring on the handle, there isn’t much resistance at all to tug the knife free. Fair warning.
WHITE RIVER SMALL GAME
While I tend to gravitate toward smaller knives, I’m sometimes disappointed with them because I dislike short handles. While others are fine with three-finger grips, I’m not fond of them. The Small Game from White River Knives has no such problems. The handle runs about 4.25 inches, giving you plenty of real estate when using the 2.62-inch blade.
It comes in a few different flavors of Micarta, and the handle is contoured with palm swells, making it extremely comfortable while also feeling secure. The S35VN blade is incredibly sharp right out of the box, which is about standard for White River Knives, if we’re being honest.
Speaking of the box, the knife arrives in a carved wooden display box, complete with identification card. This adds a touch of real class and is light years beyond the typical white cardboard box used by most knifemakers.
BARK RIVER BIRD-AND-TROUT
Bark River offers a dizzying array of knife models in its catalog, so it is no surprise that the company has come up with its own version of the bird-and-trout. It is very thin behind the convex edge, just 0.094-inch at the spine, and as such it cuts like a laser beam. Out of the box, it is hair-popping sharp. It holds that edge very well, too, due to the CPM 154 steel. The Micarta scales are a bit smooth, but that can be easily remedied with a few seconds and some sandpaper.
Perhaps even more than any of the other knives mentioned here, the Bark River Bird-and-Trout makes for an excellent utility or paring knife in the kitchen. However, it does come with a high-quality leather sheath so you can carry it into the field easily.
This is the longest knife on our short list, topping out at a full 8 inches, with a 3.6-inch blade. However, it is so thin it weighs just over 3 ounces and all but disappears on your belt.
BUCK 102 WOODSMAN
Just to further showcase how varied the bird-and-trout knife can be, take a look at the 102 Woodsman from Buck Knives. It looks like a smaller, thinner version of the company’s classic hunting knives. It has a clip-point blade terminating in a needle-sharp tip. The blade is long enough to be useful in a variety of capacities, but is still small enough to be agile in tight quarters.
While some might balk at calling the Woodsman a traditional bird-and-trout, it certainly fits the parameters and many use it for exactly that—processing small game, fowl, and fish. KI
Cold Steel Bird-and-Trout
Overall Length: 6.3125 inches
Blade Length: 2.25 inches
Steel: AUS8A stainless steel
Weight: 0.8 ounce
Sheath: Secure-Ex plastic sheath
White River Small Game
Overall Length: 7.25 inches
Blade Length: 2.62 inches
Steel: CPM S35VN
Weight: 2.75 ounces
Bark River Bird-and-Trout
Overall Length: 8 inches
Blade Length: 3.6 inches
Steel: CPM 154
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Buck 102 Woodsman
Overall Length: 7.75 inches
Blade Length: 4 inches
Steel: 420HC stainless steel
Weight: 2.5 ounces
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