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Trout Lessons

02/17/11 – Well we just got back from vacation and vacation was great. One thing that helped make it great was a book I bought last year and put aside just so that I could read it while on vacation with no need to rush or skim pages – instead I could just sit back and get lost in the book. It’s nice when you set something aside and wait until you can enjoy it fully and when the time comes it doesn’t disappoint.

Trout Lessons - Ed EngleThis book is a winner. Eight chapters of pure fishing knowledge and written well enough so that it is both easy to read and understand. My guess is this book will follow the same path Nymphing Strategies by Larry Tullis did. As in the first printing will sell out quickly and if you don’t get one now you’ll be paying the long dollar later. Nymphing Strategies sold for $17.95 and if you go looking for it now you’ll find copies (used) for just over $60.00 and it was a paperback. Trout Lessons retails for $29.95 and when this first printing it gone who knows what copies will sell for.

There are 8 chapters in the book, they are – Nymphing, Attractor Flies, Tight-Line Tactics, Meadow Streams, Catching Difficult Trout, High-Water Strategies, Small-Stream Finesse and Oddities. In every chapter I found myself pausing to digest what I had just read and often after I thought about a paragraph or two I then went back and re-read the same passages. The book is that good. I’m glad I saved it for vacation because I had the time to do that sort of thing.

I won’t go over each chapter but here are some comments on the Nymphing chapter – chapter 1. Here he cuts right to the chase and explains a basic two-nymph rig with a strike indicator. He covers the good and bad of the rig and fades back in time to explain how this technique came about. His trip back in time was to the the late 1970s when the book Masters on the Nymph (edited by J. Michael Migel and Lenord M. Wright Jr.) was published. That book introduced Chuck Fothergill’s “outrigger technique” to many of us. The name “outrigger technique” morphed into “high sticking” and is known by that name today. A technique that DIDN’T use strike indicators and was fished with a moderate length cast and a dead drifted nymph – on a relatively tight line – very different from the norm of the day which was swinging nymphs like wet flies.

He made me laugh a few pages later when he wrote:

“That’s why I was surprised when Czech nymphing hit the scene in the United States and everyone thought it was such a new, radical way to nymph. But the I realized what had happened. When I learned to nymph in the 1970s, none of us used strike indicators, so we had to learn how to detect subtle strikes by feel. When strike indicators eventually became popular, we incorporated them into our nymphing rigs because they did help us Strike Indicatorsvisually detect strikes. But we never lost our sixth sense of detecting strikes by feel. At least in the early days of strike indicators, it was easy enough to maintain that sixth sense because the first strike indicators were little more than the addition of a brightly colored tag to the leader or the fly line tip. Some nymphers painted their leaders knots in highly visible fluorescent colors. Others threaded a 1-inch long section of orange fly line into the leader. The idea was that it would be easier to detect strikes by watching the brightly colored indicator than watching the sometimes difficult to see leader’s water interface. And since the indicators didn’t really float, we still had to keep our casts short and fish a tight line to get a good drift.”

Now, I realize there’s no punch line in there and you probably didn’t see anything all that funny. But if you – as I did – lived and fished through those early nymphing days you too would have laughed when you read the comments about Czech nymphing. I know when I started reading about Czech nymphing I was saying to myself “what’s the big deal?”

After giving us that little history lesson Engle moves on to the introduction of BOYANT strike indicators and covers the good, the bad and the ugly of them. He ends the chapter by telling us:

“But if you want to move up to the next level of nymphing expertise, you may want to start training your own lateral line by simply taking the strike indicator off once in a while and practicing a few no-indicator techniques. It won’t be easy at first, especially if you’ve been a visual nympher, but if you stick with it, you’ll become a better nymph fisherman.”

And I believe he’s right.

All through this chapter there are tips on line control, rod position, strike methods and reading the water. The whole book is like that – just full on knowledge. He covers beaver ponds, reading topo maps, special flies like skaters, rise forms, multiple hatches, high dirty water, small stream basics, dry flies that sink and backs it up with solid reasoning.

Yes, I’m glad I read this book and I’ll reference it often. If you see it in a store pick it up and take a look. My guess is you’ll still have it in your hand when you reach the checkout. Ed Engle has reached my top category of writers. That top category is reserved for writers (like Dave Hughes) that I feel are so good I don’t even look at their new books I just buy them because I know they won’t disappoint.