Stu Farnham

September 30, 2002

A Fly Fisher's Library
By Stu Farnham

The Internet is a powerful resource. It provides us instant access to information, and brings us together via email, bulletin boards, chat rooms, and instant messaging. FAOL is a wonderful example of the Internet at its best. The Internet, however, will never replace the printed page.

I've loved books and fishing since my youngest years, although I did not start fly fishing until 1993. This column will give me an opportunity to share reviews of some of my favorite fly fishing and tying books (and some that are not such favorites) with my friends here at FAOL. My library reflects my tastes and interests, and so will this column. It will be heavily slanted towards cold water fishing and tying for trout and steelhead, and won't touch much on areas of which I know little, such as warm or salt water fishing.

I hope that these reviews will motivate some of you to pick up a good book, on this or any subject, and read. ~ Stu Farnham

Prospecting for Trout

Prospecting for Trout: Fly Fishing Secrets from a Streamside Observer (An Orvis Guide)

By Tom Rosenbauer
Paperback (271 pages)
Publisher: Delta; (April 1993)
ISBN: ISBN: 0385308167

Last week, in a review of Tom Rosenbauer's Reading Trout Streams, I mentioned that Tom is among my favorite fly fishing writers. This week's review is of another of Tom's books. Like Reading Trout Streams, this book was re-released in a new edition as part of The Orvis Guide, - flyfishing series. The copy in my library is the original 1993 edition, which is reviewed here.

The topic of the book is simply stated: how to fish in the absence of obvious fish activity. Followers of Halford have lost interest at this point, but for most of us this describes the majority of the trout fishing we do.

Rosenbauer starts the book by reviewing the basics of trout feeding behavior, selectivity, trout senses (mostly vision), territoriality, and rising behavior. He also reviews the effects of sunlight and temperature.

Next comes some stream ecology contrasting rich spring creeks with the relatively poor watersheds that drain the seaward slopes of our coastal mountain ranges in the US. Rich streams, with their abundant, steady food supplies, tend to produce larger trout. The abundance of food (combined with increases in fishing pressure as the trout fishing population increases and become more mobile), however, often makes those large fish highly selective. Fish in poor streams do not grow as large, but the relative scarcity of food makes them feed more opportunistically.

There's a chapter on reading the water, sort of the Reader's Digest condensed version of the book reviewed here last week.

The bulk of the remainder of the book describe searching strategies based on the type of fly being fished: streamers, traditional wet flies, nymphs, and dries. The chapter on streamers discusses various hypotheses about why trout take streamers; these motivations will inform your fishing tactics. Tom then takes you through streamer strategies based on time of ay and year, and presents the basic techniques for streamer fishing. Being mostly a nymph and dry fly fisher, I found Rosenbauer's short course in Streamers 101 highly instructive.

What's the difference between a streamer and a wet fly? For one thing, streamers generally imitate non-insect food forms (bait fish, fry, crustaceans), while wet flies for the most part represent the immature forms of aquatic insects. For another, streamers are most often fished with an active presentation, while wet files are usually fished on the swing (or, occasionally, dead drift). Action is sometimes applied at the end of the swing to provoke a take (as is the case with the famous Leisenring lift technique). Rosenbauer spends most of this chapter on presentation techniques for the wet fly.

Many fly fishers express a decided preference for fishing the dry fly. More than a few of us switch to nymphs only reluctantly, and our technique reflects it. Others speak of strike indicators as bobbers, suggesting that nymph fishing does not require much skill. In my opinion, nymph fishing is a harder skill to master than the dry fly: you need to control your presentation in three dimensions, not two, and do so without being able to see your fly. A skilled nymph fishers is constantly adjusting their terminal tackle to match conditions, and skillfully mending their line to control presentation. Tom talks about the importance of nymphs in the trout's diet, explains behavioral drift, presents some rules-of-thumb for fly selection, reviews the use of strike indicatiors, and goes over presentation techniques. Although this is a book on searching techniques, there is also good information on nymphing to visible fish.

When is a dry fly a good choice for fishing the water? Rising to take a floating insect involves a greater expenditure of energy than taking a nymph. The greater the distance a trout needs to rise, and the harder the current the trout needs to fight, the less net energy is gotten from the food. So, Rosenbauer asserts, depth and speed of water are keys to choosing a searching dry. He reviews pattern selection, terrestrial fishing, and presentation, both drag free and active. The book ends with a chapter on approach. ~ Stu Farnham

About Stu

Stu tying Stu Farnham is a New Englander by birth, who was transplanted to and put down roots in Oregon in the early 1990s, now residing in the Seattle area. A software engineering manager by vocation, he can be found in his spare time chasing trout and steelhead in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest, chasing his four Gordon Setters (who in turn are chasing chukar), tying flies, reading, or working on his website. Colleen, his long suffering wife of 28 years, is a professionally trained personal chef.

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