Fishing is not just a hobby; it's a passion that has captivated generations of anglers. Whether you're a novice looking to learn the basics or a seasoned pro seeking to expand your knowledge, there's no better way to immerse yourself in the world of fishing than through books. From practical guides to captivating tales, here are the top 12 fishing books that deserve a place on every angler's bookshelf.
Before we dive into the list, it's important to take a step back and ask: why are you here? Are you looking for a gift? A fly fishing book? Something for dad? I like to preface lists with that because your intent may differ from my intentions with this list.
To be clear, I put the list below together to highlight a diverse set of books that aren't all about one type of fish, one form of fishing, or even one type of book (instructional vs. coffee table vs. entertaining story). If you're looking for more on, say, fly fishing, please shoot me a note, and I'd be happy to provide some additional recommendations. You'll also notice that I didn't include any almanacs, log books, or knot guides. Happy to provide some recommendations if that's what you're in the market for. Last, I wanted to stay true to the core of fishing. For example, some sites may list a fictional book like Gould's Book of Fish. While I have nothing against this book, it's a novel on colonialism; not a fishing book.
With that, below are 12 books that you should read. While we could sit around a fire debate which are better than others, I firmly believe that all 12 are excellent in their own way. I hope you enjoy the list!
Our Top Twelve
In "Trout Bum," John Gierach shares his experiences, insights, and adventures as a devoted fly fisherman. With humor and wit, Gierach takes you to pristine rivers and imparts plenty of wisdom about the pursuit of trout. This book is a delightful blend of personal anecdotes and fishing philosophy.
Gierach is a legendary writer, and I love this: "Being a fishing writer just doesn't make economic sense, except that you're having fun and doing what other people do on vacation or when they retire."
For a bit more on John, enjoy the short video below.
The Complete Angler
Considered one of the foundational texts of angling literature, "The Complete Angler" was first published in 1653. Written in the form of a dialogue, Izaak Walton's book celebrates the art and joy of fishing. It covers various fishing techniques, offers advice on tackle and baits, and provides an enchanting glimpse into the angling world of the 17th century. This book is a classic.
Matching the Hatch
Understanding aquatic insects and their life cycles is crucial for successful fly fishing. In "Matching the Hatch," Ernest Schwiebert delves into the intricate world of aquatic entomology. This comprehensive guide helps anglers identify the insects trout feed on, select appropriate flies, and effectively imitate the natural prey, making it an indispensable resource for fly fishing enthusiasts.
If you're a bass fishing enthusiast, you will find a treasure trove of knowledge in "Bass Wisdom." Homer Circle, a famous angler and writer, shares insights and strategies for catching bass in various conditions and locations. From lure selection and presentation to seasonal patterns and trophy bass tactics, this book offers invaluable wisdom for anyone seeking to improve their bass fishing skills.
Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis
Combining introspection and adventure, "Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis" is a compelling memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Howell Raines. As Raines navigates his own midlife challenges, he finds solace and rejuvenation through fly fishing. This book beautifully explores the therapeutic qualities of fishing and its ability to heal the soul.
The River Why
"The River Why" is a coming-of-age novel that revolves around a young angler's search for meaning and enlightenment through fly fishing. David James Duncan weaves a captivating story that explores the connection between fishing, nature, and the human spirit. This book is a beautiful blend of introspection, humor, and the love of fishing.
Complete Guide to Fresh and Saltwater Fishing
Vin T. Sparano covers various fishing techniques, tackle options, and species-specific advice. This guidebook provides valuable insights for both novice and experienced anglers, making it an essential addition to any fishing library.
Fly-Fishing the 41st
In "Fly-Fishing the 41st," James Prosek embarks on an extraordinary adventure, tracing the 41st parallel across the globe and fishing in diverse locations along the way. Prosek's vivid descriptions and passion for angling paint a remarkable picture of the world's rivers, their inhabitants, and the cultures surrounding them. This book combines travel memoir with angling narratives, creating a unique reading experience.
Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die
If you're seeking inspiration for your next fishing adventure, "Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die" is a fantastic read. Chris Santella highlights fifty remarkable fly fishing destinations around the world, providing vivid descriptions, insider tips, and stunning photography. It's a bucket list-worthy book that will fuel your wanderlust and passion for angling.
The Longest Silence
This book is a collection of essays that explore the profound connection between fishing and the human experience. Not a practical fishing guide, it's rather a thoughtful exploration of the emotional and spiritual aspects of the sport shaped from McGuane's own fishing expeditions across various locations, from Montana to the Florida Keys.
It's rare to read a biography about a fish. In "Cod," Kurlansky traces the rich history of this iconic fish, exploring its influence on various cultures, economies, and even wars. The book covers a wide range of topics related to cod, including its role in the discovery of the New World, the rise and fall of cod fisheries, and the development of international trade networks centered around this prized fish.
This is an eye-opening take on our perception that eating salmon is good for us, and therefore, we should eat more. Far from what we see in advertisements, many commercial salmon are crammed into feedlots and fed a diet full of chemicals. Both Frantz and Collins do a great job as investigative journalists tracing the money and what they discover is fascinating.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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