Ernest Schwiebert is probably my favorite fly fishing author. He began fly fishing at the age of eight. During his lifetime, he fished with most all the famous Catskill fly fishermen. They regarded him as a pre-eminent colleague at an early age. He authored five books on fly fishing, three of which I have read. They include “Matching the Hatch” (1955), the classic “Nymphs” (1973), and my favorite, “Trout” (1978).
I regard “Trout” as the best, all-around book yet written on the sport of fly-fishing. Schwiebert had an encyclopedic knowledge of our sport (died 2005), and an engaging writing style. An architect by trade, he richly illustrated all his works himself.
In “Trout”, he begins with a thorough history of fly-fishing. He then covers American trout species, tools of our trade, casting, fishing strategies and techniques. He finishes with a few thoughts about the etiquette to be followed while fishing a trout stream.
“Fish behavior is completely rational. Both food and survival are primary instinctual drives, and understanding this from the trout’s point of view is basic in reading water correctly. The fish seek out optimal temperatures, oxygenation, shelter from predators, and adequate supplies of food. Their world is continually hostile, and a fish that is insufficiently wary will not survive. It is also a world in which calories ingested by feeding are continually spent in survival, growth, and movement.”
“The primary habitat consists of both holding lies, where the fish seek shelter and concealment, and their principal feeding lies. Big trout sometimes feed once or twice a week, but feed heavily when the mood strikes them. During the nonfeeding cycles, big fish move into their favorite holding places, which offer them maximum concealment. Hunger brings them out into the shallows and current tongues that offer optimal feeding opportunities, particularly at night.”
“The typical odyssey we travel in learning to fish is a gradual and satisfying journey. It is a slow evolution from beginner to expert, and it involves a subtle metamorphosis from fisherman into angler. However, it is not merely the refinements of fishing and our fish-catching skills that occupy this transformation. It is also a remarkable evolution in attitudes. The full metamorphosis is complete when a man realizes that his fishing skills have been so developed that he can deplete his own sport. It is a singular milestone of self-knowledge.”
So, if you’re looking for an informative, engaging read this winter about fly fishing for trout, you should give “Trout” a try. It is two full volumes in length, so it may get you into spring!
Written by Al Simpson, January, 2019.