Book Excerpt: “Trout”

July 29, 2022 By: Tom Rosenbauer

Platitudes. Does fly fishing encourage more of them, or am I just jaded because I have been immersed in fly fishing my entire life? I shouldn’t be hard on people who spout what they feel to be clever revelations, but the following phrases make me grind my teeth and force me to stretch my cheek muscles in what I hope will be an appreciation of novelty.

That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching. This must have been funny once, probably back when the Macedonians were fashioning red wool to a hook, but it’s now a signal to never talk fishing again with the person uttering these words.

If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. I first heard this expression used in describing the vagaries of Icelandic wind and thought it was clever, but since I have heard it used to describe nearly every place I have fished, from Kamchatka to Maine. Weather changes all the time and it’s unpredictable. That’s why we all denigrate weather forecasters.

Think like a fish. Really? Do you want to go around with your thought processes being analyzed by an organ the size of a blueberry, when a focus on food negates the danger of an osprey whirling overhead? Or with the inability to distinguish between a delicate mayfly and a clump of foam and chicken feathers on a hook attached to a piece of string?

Trout are only found in beautiful places. Sorry. They are found where they can get enough food while being protected from predators and then screw on some clean gravel once a year. In my neighborhood, one of the best places to fish during the winter is in a small run we call the Poo Pipe. Just below a municipal sewage-treatment plant, the warm water allows fish a level of thermal comfort, as well as abundant midge larvae that grow in the enrichment from a slug of organic matter 24 hours a day, 12 months a year. It’s a relatively modern plant and not perfumed with the aroma of sewage, but it does emanate the scent of gray water, that unmistakable used-up-laundry-detergent smell. You wouldn’t hike down there on a romantic date.

It’s not always conventional beauty that attracts us to trout waters. Our eyes look on trout streams in a different way than most people. And maybe I have a tunnel vision that cramps my perception of beauty, or at least of the value of a trout stream to me and only me. We don’t see trout water like most tourists.


Excerpted from “Trout”  by Tom Rosenbauer with permission from Rizzoli New York.