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1. Resident brown trout Salmo trutta in the Esva River basin (north Spain) live in a patchy environment with tracts of riparian forest or meadow along stream banks. This study assessed whether the reproductive traits of brown trout from four contrasting sites reflected site-specific factors.

2. Length at maturity (10.5–11 cm of 1 + individuals) was the same in the four sites examined but slowest growers in slow-growing sub-populations delayed maturity for 1 year relative to fast-growing fish. The analysis of monthly variations in egg size and number suggest that two ‘decisions’ in two consecutive years are required to complete spawning. The first concerns the number of eggs, determined when trout are still 0 +, and the second concerns egg size.

3. At three sites, egg size and number did not differ significantly between years but highly significant interannual variations were apparent at another site. Fish length was the major determinant of egg size and number at all sites but for any given length, brown trout at sites where the fish exhibited higher growth rates spawned more, but smaller, eggs than those at slow-growing sites. This spatial pattern was identical to the temporal pattern exhibited by trout at another site. The combination of temporal (year-to-year) and spatial (between rivers) variations in egg size and number showed a significant negative correlation, supporting the operation of a trade-off between these two traits.

4. The trade-off between egg size and number seems to be determined by site-specific factors, with slow-growing trout at sites which are fully covered by canopy spawning fewer, but larger, eggs than fast-growers in unshaded sites.