Published Aug 7. 2013 - 10 years ago
Updated or edited Nov 17. 2015

Book review: Trout

A simple concept. Fish paintings of single trout flat on on their side on a white background. How can such books be Global Class? Simple answer: James Prosek.

James Prosek
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A short detour on Prosek before I return to the books at hand.
Prosek is probably best known for these very books, but is an active and widely used and published writer and painter, whose work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic and New York Times. He became a household name in the fly fishing community when Abel started using him as an artist for a range of their fabulous painted reels.

These books must be considered instant classics from the day they were first published in 1996 and 2003 respectively. In 1996 Prosek was just in his twenties and still studying at Yale.

These books range very high on the list of great fishing books amongst my most graphics savvy fly fishing friends. And they are indeed a fantastic books. The concept is as I already wrote, very simple. The main act is paintings of trout. Simply fish on their side on a white background. Seventy species of north American fish in "Trout" and one hundred from all over the world in "Trout of the World".

Simply fish on their side on a white background.

Each fish is a specimen of some genus or subgenus of the trout family, and each is accompanied by a story with a description of the geographic location of the fish and a bit of natural history.
The paintings are watercolors in Prosek's signature style: rough yet very precise and in stunning colors. They serve an excellent testament to the enormous variety in this group of fish, and not least a testament to Prosek's impressing research, keen eye and extraordinary skills as a painter.

You may ask how page after page of fish paintings can be interesting. I'm sure some people will find them monotonous, maybe even boring, but it's like when you are fishing and catch several fish (yes, it happens!), you can be fascinated by their stunning beauty and the subtle differences in the individuals. And in these books we're not just talking subtle differences, but also an amazing documentation of the huge differences there is to be found amongst trout.

I can personally sit and leaf through the books in silent fascination and just be awestruck by both the fish and the artist's rendition of them. Bold and colorful and yet subtle and soothing at the same time - fish as well as paintings.
These might not be your typical fly-fishing books. They aren't you lexical fish biology books either. They are a celebration of the beauty of the trout of the world.

I have been a fan of James Prosek's paintings for many years, and have had his two "Trout" books book on my wish list for many years, but didn't buy them immediately. When found them in bookstores, I thought they were a bit on the expensive side. The list price for "Trout of the World" has typically been 45 UK£ (70 US$) or more. When I wrote this, Amazon listed two new copies at 170£ and 220£ respectively! That's up towards 350 US$! For a book!. The offers vary and right now both books are available at much better prices, and used copies pop up regularly.

I recently managed to find a very decent copy of "Trout of the World" at 16£ or 25US$ including shipping, which must be said to be a bargain compared to the above prices.
My copy of "Trout", Prosek's first trout painting book from 1996, cost me 12UK£ or less than 20 US$, and I can even see that it's been marked down to 3.- (£ or USD, it doesn't say) in a bookstore at one point, so it is possible to find these books at very reasonable prices.

PS: Trout of the World has recently been revised and updated with 25 new paintings and a new preface and has been re-published by Abrams Publishers (2013).

They are a celebration of the beauty of the trout of the world.

Prosek's own web site is found here:

Prosek\'s Abel reels - James Prosek has delivered art for a large series of Abel reels
Prosek/Abel reels
James Prosek - Abel


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