Stu Farnham

November 11th, 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


Trout and Salmon of North America

Trout and Salmon of North America
by Robert J. Behnke, Joseph R. Tomelleri (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Free Press (September 24, 2002)
ISBN: 0743222202;

Let me start by saying that no, I have not read every word of this book, and don't expect to finish it for quite a while. I'm also not qualified to judge this book for its technical accuracy. Why will it take me so long? And how can I pretend to review a book without having read the whole thing?

This book is densely packed with information on all the varieties (species and subspecies) of trout, salmon, and char found in North America and has beautiful color illustrations of each (sub-) species. It starts with an introductory chapter that covers the basics: origins/evolution, taxonomy, life history and biology, and anatomy/morphology.

The rest of the book is broken down by genus. The section on genus Oncorhyncus starts with a family tree including all the rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and pacific salmon in relation to each other, and includes discussions of commonalties across the genus of biology, evolution, geographic distribution. Conservation issues such as hatchery versus wild populations, effects of introduced (sub-) species on native populations, and Endangered Species Act listings are covered. There's also a sidebar which tries to clear up the confusing history of taxonomic classification; the rainbow trout, now known as Oncorynchus mykiss, is referred to in older texts by its former name of Salmo Gardinieri.

For each species there are illustrations covering spawning/non-spawning, fluvial versus sea-run forms, and key field identification points. There are general discussions of biology, distribution, classification, and conservation are reiterated in detail specific to each species.

When we think of trout, we tend to think only of the major species of rainbow, cutthroat, brown, and brook trout (actually a char). Having lived in Oregon for enough years to consider it my true home, I particularly enjoyed discussions of the Redband Trout of the Columbia River Basin. This includes a section on the very specific subspecies found in the three corners area where Oregon, California, and Nevada come together.

The less common trout species are also covered in detail: Golden Trout, Greenback Trout, Apache Trout, and others. Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, Lake Trout, Grayling, and even the lowly mountain whitefish get their share of attention, as do Atlantic Salmon and the various species of their Pacific cousins.

Aside from the sheer volume of information, the other reason I have not yet read the whole book is that I want to savor it over the long Pacific Northwest winter, when the days are short and the rivers often too high and off color to fish. ~ 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.

Previous Stu Farnham Book Columns
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