March 30, 2015 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What's a good, straightforward book that will teach me how to fish in various environments and for different fish?

I grew up around water, and I've fished in some capacity for most of that time. I've caught plenty and know the basics, but I've never felt like I "know how" to fish, and all of the resources I've seen seem more like folklore or anecdote and less like tested techniques and advice. I do enjoy the act of fishing, but I want to catch fish and eat them.

There are three general environments I'm likely to spend the vast majority of time fishing in: Lakes and slow-moving rivers in North Texas, and faster streams and rivers in New Mexico (trout). However, I'd like to know enough to be able to adapt to different locales and species.

As far as trout fishing goes, I plan to take a fly-fishing lesson or two, but from the reading I've done it seems that fly-fishing (and fishing in general) is to a greater or lesser extent tradition-bound and it's not clear to me that it's actually the best way to catch trout.

So, what I want is preferably a physical book that's straightforward and pragmatic that can help me move from "guy with a fishing pole" to "good fisherman."
posted by cmoj to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I grew up in Florida and read dozens, if not hundreds of fishing books. And honestly, I never found a really good reference book that was effective at teaching general techniques. That said, there are some really great books that helped me out a lot.

For warmwater fish (bluegill, catfish, bass, gar, etc.) in Texas, I'd recommend two books:

The Sunfishes by Jack Ellis - Very much focuses on fly fishing, but you'll learn a TON about the behavior and patterns of warmwater fish.
Catfishing by Chris Altman - Really really good look at the various methods and baits used to catch catfish.

I don't have much experience with trout, although I did some trout/salmon fishing while on vacation in the PNW and Alaska. I learned about that from articles in Fly Fishing magazine and by talking to people at my local fly shop who had made similar trips.

Overall, I think the things that will make you a better angler are just getting out on the water, talking with others who fish the same water and thinking critically about your experiences and experimenting.

I also can't recommend fly fishing enough. It was by far the most rewarding form of fishing I've ever done. I found the overall experience, from tying my own flies, to making a really beautiful cast to watching a fish hit the fly, setting the hook, playing it in and releasing it, very enjoyable and relaxing.

If you're interested in fly fishing/tying specific books, I've got a few recommendations there, too.
posted by paulcole at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2015

Fly fishing is super fun, but if you want to catch and eat the most fish possible, it really is better to use bait.
posted by advicepig at 2:39 PM on March 30, 2015

Best answer: I can't think of a single book to recommend that will cover all aspects of fishing. Sorry.

Speaking for myself, I used to do a lot of trout fishing (both fly and spinning) and general warm water fishing, but lately I've been addicted to bass fishing. Bass are sometimes described as "the thugs of the warm water fisheries", and they are a very aggressive and opportunistic fish, qualities that make them a lot of fun to catch and release again, apparently without too much discomfort to the fish.

I, too, have read several dozen books on fishing, and more than a dozen that were solely about bass fishing, and the one that stands out is Homer Circle's Circle on Bass. It's out of print but still in wide circulation, and you can find it for less than $10 through Amazon or your local library may have a copy. It's a really, really good book that goes in to a lot of detail on the hows and whys of bass fishing, with an emphasis on where bass live in various bodies of water throughout the year (bass move around), which lures to use, and how to fish those lures. Because it's almost 20 years old it doesn't cover some more recent techniques, like the Alabama rig, but it still offers an outstanding on bass fishing, from the basics to much more. As a bonus, Circle's style is very engaging, which is only fitting since he was a long-time fishing columnist.
posted by mosk at 2:42 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just take your time, start with simple, less expensive gear and see what works for you over time. Nobody learns it all in a day, or even a year, but you will catch fish and have fun during the learning curve. Texas bass means spin fishing with either bait or artificial lures, but you will probably be in waters that hold catfish, panfish (crappies, bluegill) that are all a lot more enjoyable for eating than bass. Bass fishermen have developed their sport into a highly competitive event, but you can enjoy it with a minimum of gear as well. A boat helps on open water.

I'm a fly fisherman and it isn't as tradition bound as it may seem from books. Especially out in the western USA. I save a lot of money by tying my own flies - which I really enjoy doing on its own - and sticking with functional, cheap rods and reels. A good pair of waders is usually my biggest expense. Also, flies - with the barbs crushed down - are often more effective for catching trout in streams than bait. And you can usually get away with a few patterns in different sizes. (Adams dry. Deer Hair Caddis, Sawyer's Pheasant Tail nymph, Beadhead Hare's Ear nymph, Muddler Minnow, and Wooley Worm. But then - I am an east coast angler...)

I usually throw my trout back unharmed (and dine on burgers at night) but If you are fishing in New Mexico, I believe the State fisheries are encouraging anglers to eat all the non-native, introduced trout species (rainbows, brown trout, brook trout) and encourages the release of the native Gila, Apache, and cutthroat trout.

There are tons of helpful web sites and blogs. Remember: a lot of fishermen are gearheads and the sporting goods industry wants you to believe that you need to spend $500 on a simple reel because it has to be made out of Titanium and survive in outer space... it just ain't true. I use a $35 classic Pfluger medalist fly reel, a $40 5-weight pack rod, a budget fly line and a bix of flies I tied myself. I know the trout scene best: Midcurrent, Fly Fisher's Republic, Troutnut are all good.
posted by zaelic at 7:40 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: paulcole, I'd be interested in those fly fishing book recommendations too.
posted by cmoj at 2:07 PM on March 31, 2015

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