TWO ON TROPHY TROUT.
Fly Fishing The West's Best Trophy Lakes, by Denny Rickards. Stillwater Productions, (541) 381-2218, 2000, 198 pages, $34.95 hardcover.
"OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS, I have fished, explored, and challenged trout in over 400 lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in the Western United States," writes Denny Rickards. From that experience he developed a list of 50 lakes he considers among the West's best big-trout waters; that list is the subject of this book.
"I can assure you, much thought went into compiling this list and if undue angling pressure would adversely affect it (a lake), it was not included," Rickards says. He should have thought about that a little more; several of these lakes already are in serious danger of being loved to death, and added publicity won't help.
Like it or not, the publicity is coming. Rickards's list includes waters in 11 states, including descriptions of their size, depth, insect hatches, trout species, regulations, seasons, fly patterns, and recommended fishing methods. He starts with Arizona, which has only one water listed, then continues with California (9), Colorado (2), Idaho (2), Montana (7), Nevada (4), New Mexico (2), Oregon (10), Utah (3), Washington (5), and Wyoming (5). The list includes some famous names you'd expect on any roster of top big-fish waters (Henry's Lake, Duck Lake, Hebgen Lake, Pyramid Lake, etc.), plus others not so well known. All are public waters; fee lakes were excluded.
Most of what Rickards says about these fisheries is accurate, but his information is sometimes uneven. This is especially true when he tells how to find these lakes. Some of his directions are specific, others inexplicably vague. Maps would have helped immensely, but there are none in the book.
Rickards also focuses almost exclusively on wet-fly and nymph fishing; the dry fly evidently isn't part of his repertoire. Maybe that's why he fails to mention the sensational caddis hatch that provides the season's best angling on one lake and describes a caddis hatch on another lake that doesn't have one. But such errors are the exception rather than the rule.
Generous use of color photos make this large (8 1/2" x 11") book visually attractive. True, there are too many "grip and grin" shots, but these are offset by many good scenic and action shots.
All fishing guidebooks suffer the inherent risk of being rendered partly obsolete by changing conditions before they make it into print. Rickards knows this and goes to considerable lengths to include the latest information, such as the reappearance of pike in California's Davis Lake or the scrap fish infestation of Washington's Lenice-Merry-Nunnally Lake chain. Yet even the most commendable efforts to keep things up to date are sometimes overtaken by events, and apparently that's what happened in the case of Washington's Lake Lenore. The book makes no mention of the recent large die-off of Lahontan cutthroat in this formerly productive lake. Nevertheless, Rickards deserves credit for doing his best to provide the latest dope.
With its large size and hardcover format, this book is far more elaborate and attractive than most others of its genre. In terms of content, it also beats the competition (that's because there isn't any).
Does all that make it worth $34.95? Look at it this way: If you want to know the identities of the lakes on Rickards's list, it'll cost you 70 cents a name.
Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout, by Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galloup. Countryman Press, (800) 245-4151, 1999, 160 pages, $34.95 hardcover.
IN THE BIG-FORAGE, BIG-FISH country of the upper Midwest, imitating big food is the key to success. Of course, hatches have their place, and they provide good fishing, especially in early July when the giant Hex mayfly arrives. But even the Hex doesn't beat the attraction of a big, meaty, baitfish pattern. Big fish like big flies. It's that simple.
In perfect sync with that paradigm, Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galloup, two respected guides and fly fishers from the Great Lakes region, have researched, reflected, and rewritten what many of us thought we knew about streamer fishing for big trout. The two also debunk a few things that just don't work. The result is a textbook on streamer fishing that should be in the vest of every fly fisher looking to score big.
The bulk of the authors' research for Modern Streamers was done on Michigan's well-known streams--the Au Sable, Pere Marquette, and Upper Manistee, among others. The streamer techniques and patterns they reveal, however, can work everywere.
Linsenman and Galloup cover thoroughly the techniques and gear for streamer fishing to trophy fish, from reading the water for big fish to choosing and casting various sinking lines. The impresive "reading the water" section, which has good black-and-white illustrations, as well as the chapter on big-fish behavior, can help you learn to think like a predator and then fish like one.
Also impressive is the treatment of fly design and presentation. The authors have created a variety of flies (recipes are included), but their streamer designs, thoughts on imitating food items, and realistic presentation techniques are the cornerstones of this book.
A book of this type should do several things well. It should package the new information with all the historically relevant thinking on the topic. The authors are thorough. For example, in discussing streamer patterns and what they imitate, they recommend flies like the Gray Ghost, Zonker, and Blonde alongside their more contemporary creations such as the Zoo Cougar and Butt Monkey. It's good information and good reading, too.
The second thing a quality fly-fishing book should do is clearly explain a practical, successful technique, such as streamer fishing, in a given geographic region or regions, such as the Great Lakes. From that, we all can extrapolate sound advice into almost universal axioms of methodologies, as Linseman might say. For the rest of us, that mouthful means we can count on this book for accurate, workable information.