top of page

Fly Fishing Books (Part II)

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

I covered a bunch of ground in part I, in this part, I'll get into books about Wisconsin, books about trout, books about species other than trout, and lastly a handful of books that quite "science-y". To reiterate, I make no money on affiliate links on any of these books, I provide the links to Amazon most often because it typically has enough reviews to make your choices more informed. Buy from the local or internet book seller of your choice.

Books about Wisconsin

While there really has not been a new book about Wisconsin in quite some time - at least to my knowledge - many good books exist. I won't dive too deeply into maps and access books but I have provided a list of books and maps in book formats below. My personal choices for finding new water and exploring are the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer, a copy of the Improved Trout Waters book, Exploring Wisconsin Trout Streams: The Angler's Guide, and when I have a cell connection or access to WIFI, the Wisconsin TROUT tool. And I ALWAYS carry a paper copy of the Wisconsin trout fishing regulations for the current year.

A few of the "kiss and tell" books about Wisconsin streams (and ponds)

I think that the best book on Wisconsin is Ross Mueller's Upper Midwest Flies That Catch Trout and How to Fish Them: Year-Round Guide, a book full not only of fly patterns but a number of great nuggets of information. Sure, the book is a little dated but the flies and information are still solid. His book, Fly Fishing Midwestern Spring Creeks--Angler's Guide to Trouting the Driftless Area, is worth having too but I put his first well above his second. For a book that "names names" - Exploring Wisconsin Trout Streams: The Angler's Guide is the best of them out there for Wisconsin, I think. All of the choices are getting a bit dated these days.

The other two indispensable books are Ann Miller's Hatch Guide for Upper Midwest Streams (not specific to Wisconsin) and Mike Miller, Katie Songer, and Ron Dolen's Field Guide to Wisconsin Streams: Plants, Fishes, Invertebrates, Amphibians, and Reptiles. Ann's hatch guide is quite excellent not only for what the "bugs" are and when they hatch but for behavior and habitats of the macroinvertebrates. The guide to Wisconsin streams is perfect for any angler that enjoys knowing more about the flora and fauna in and around streams. Lastly, not Wisconsin specific but every angler needs a favorite bird book - I carry National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America - but we all have our own favorites.

Book Resources for Wisconsin

Books about Trout (Biology-ish)

There are quite some number of books about trout - some deep dives into their life history and evolution - but all of them have great images because trout are pretty easy to make beautiful.

  1. Justin Prosek's Trout: An Illustrated History is simply a gorgeous book that is well worth it for the watercolor paintings alone.

  2. Dr. Robert (Bob) Behnke's Trout and Salmon of North America is written by one of America's foremost trout experts and illustrated by Joseph Tomelleri, is probably the best know fish illustrator in the world. Together, they produce, in my opinion, the best and most informative book about the trout and salmon species in North America.

  3. Species specific books - the two best are probably Nick Karas's Brook Trout: A Thorough Look at North America's Great Native Trout- Its History, Biology, and Angling Possibilities and Cecil Heacox's The Compeat Brown Trout, at least for the reader that does not want to dig too deeply into the scientific world. If you really want to get into the science of Brown Trout, Elliott's Quantitative Ecology of the Brown Trout is dated (published in 1994) but it is a great scientific accomplishment and is coveted by trout geeks worldwide. These books will certainly provide the reader with information that will help them better understand these species.

  4. My favorite book about Rainbow Trout is a little different story - An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World. The title certainly gives away the point behind the book but it is really a book about human choices and how we have messed things up when it comes to Rainbow Trout - which can certainly be extrapolated to other things.

Non-Trout Books

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) certainly do not receive the attention that the trout and salmon species receive (see the post, In Praise of Smallmouth Bass) but there are a few really good books on Smallmouth Bass. My favorite book on Smallmouth Bass is Tim Landwehr and Dave Karczynski's book, Smallmouth: Modern Fly-Fishing Methods, Tactics, and Techniques. It does a really good job of talking about their biology and how to target them at different times of the year and dissects rivers from top to bottom. The classic smallmouth book had always been Bob Clouser's Fly-Fishing for Smallmouth: in Rivers and Streams. Tim Holshag's book, Smallmouth Fly Fishing: The Best Techniques, Flies And Destinations is well worth buying, particular for those that fish small stream smallmouth. I do not have Harry Murray's simply named Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass but is an old favorite of many.

Science(ish) Books

This should be my wheelhouse but it really is not anywhere near my favorite category of books. I have to be honest, I have picked through The Mind of the Trout: A Cognitive Ecology for Biologists and Anglers and Feeding Time: A Fly Fisher's Guide to What, Where & When Trout Eat but they are both "slugs" for me. More like work than I am looking for in entertainment but your mileage may well vary. My searches also bring up What a Trout Sees: A Fly-Fishing Guide to Life Underwater and Understanding Trout Behavior: Brilliant Insights into How Trout Act and Why by the Authors of The Trout and the Fly but I've not pulled the trigger on either as they too look like work. Maybe that is why the population ecology topics I like writing about get much less attention...

What are Your Thoughts?

Agree or disagree with my selections? What did I miss? What would you add? Any of my choices you really dislike? My list is certainly biased to what I am familiar with and what I have read. Because of that, my choices might be a bit dated as I'm not in a place where I am reading a lot of the "how to" books or magazines.

My tiny little library for a Midwest angler just getting into fly fishing for trout and thinking about how to best "fool" them would be:

I'd pick up the casting and fly tying instruction online and with friends or a guide. For more advanced casters, the Casts that Catch Fish DVD is well worth the $30 price tag. If you want to learn more about Smallmouth, Tim Landwehr and Dave Karczynski's book, Smallmouth: Modern Fly-Fishing Methods, Tactics, and Techniques covers that quite thoroughly and offers something for all skill and experience levels. For the Driftless angler, I would pick up Mike Lawson's Spring Creeks or John Shewey's Mastering the Spring Creeks will have something for anglers of all experience levels.

The Lists of Others

513 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Henry NL
Henry NL
Feb 27, 2021

I’ve taught fly tying classes in Madison for 20 years and when students ask which book can help them to decide with tying which flies and improving their trout fishing I immediately recommend Ross Mueller’s book “Upper Midwest Flies That Catch Trout and How to Fish Them.” Ross provides excellent instruction for fly tiers and clear guidance on when and how to fish these flies for catching trout. I’ve so frequently used my copy that it started to fall apart, so I had it spirally bound and now can easily lay it open on my fly tying desk. Several years ago I bumped into Ross while fishing, profusely thanked him for writing this excellent book, and let him know t…

bottom of page