Wisdom from the Trout Hunter: Rene’ Harrop talks about his new book, Learning from the Water

Ever hear of a trout stream called the Henry’s Fork? It’s a trib of the Snake River that flows through our neighbor-state of Idaho. It’s one of the most challenging trout streams in the world–a large, often glassy spring creek, loaded with huge, highly educated rainbows. If you’ve read John Gierach, you know all about it and the tens of thousands of trouters who flock there every summer. And you’ve undoubtedly heard of a character named Rene’ Harrop, aka “The Trout Hunter.”

Rene’ is among the most innovative fly tyers in the history of American fly-fishing, picking up where Swisher and Richards left off in the 1990s. He was among the first to effectively apply CDC to the job of fooling tricky trout (CDC is the equivalent of using live bait). His incredible book “Trout Hunter” is now a collector’s item, and copies are nearly impossible to acquire.

So imagine our excitement when we saw a NEW book from Rene’ featuring updated wisdom and a big fat bunch of his sexy fly patterns! Learning from the Water, Harrop’s new masterpiece, just arrived in the shop this week. But wait…it gets better! We’ve got autographed copies for a limited time AND, Rene’ was kind enough to grant a short interview with the Oregon Flyfishing Blog.

So check out the interview that follows, and be sure to swing by for your copy of Learning from the Water!

Learning from the water

OR FF Blog: In the first chapter, you explain your fundamental approach to fishing, as a “hunter” and as a devoted scholar. Did you always come to the water with that approach? Or was there a time/person/event that helped you start paying attention to the minute details of fishing?

Harrop: I came to fly fishing at age nine which is fifty one years ago. From the beginning, I wanted to catch big trout and the opportunity to find them near my home was abundant. Learning to catch them with a fly rod, however, was not a quick or easy process. A hunter’s mentality is instinctive to me, and the continuing desire to learn is my nature. My father served as an early example, but meeting and fishing with Doug Swisher and Carl Richards in the late 1960’s was pivotal in helping me to understand the specific connection between trout and their food sources. Mainly, however, my growth as an angler is a product of patient observation and thought.

OR FF Blog: In the second chapter you recognize that modern techno-nymphing is responsible for bringing new anglers into the fold of flyfishing. Can you relate any stories of anglers/friends/clients making the transition from bobbicator fishing to “trout hunting?”

Harrop: Most beginning fly fishers will not progress beyond casual interest if they are not able to catch at least a few fish right away. This applies especially to kids who are eager to try just about anything but will seldom sustain interest if their efforts do not bring a fairly quick result. Fishing one or more nymphs beneath a strike indicator allows early success without the requirement of advanced skill or knowledge. A good river guide is a real asset in bringing understanding to a beginner as to the way this technique works but also by demonstrating and explaining how it can serve as a stepping stone for advancement to techniques that require greater skill and experience. Indicator fishing belongs within the skill set of nearly every trout angler because there are times when it is the best way to gain success. However, it is wrong to condemn those who chose to limit their participation in the sport to this simple but effective method. I certainly acknowledge that my approach to fly fishing is not for everyone.

OR FF Blog: Why this book, and why now?

Harrop: After, TroutHunter, I had little ambition to write another book, and it took awhile for Jay Nichols to convince me that I had more to say. Jay and I became acquainted while he was an editor for Fly Fisherman Magazine before he moved to the business of publishing books. The concept of Learning from the Water evolved over several months of discussion with Jay and my wife Bonnie who provided most of the photographs. Judith Schnell and Amy Lerner of Stackpole played strongly into the decision to go forward with the project.

OR FF Blog: To someone considering which new fly-fishing book to buy themselves this summer, which book would you recommend first and why?

Harrop: While I am not completely familiar with every meaningful book that has been published in recent years, I would recommend titles that are authored by experienced writers who have spent their lives in pursuit of trout. Mike Lawson or Kelly Galloup match this description and I am still waiting for something from George Anderson. Sadly, it’s possible that the best books on the subject of fly fishing for trout will never be written. Death or advanced age have deprived us of the wisdom and knowledge of men like Andre’ Puyans or Al Troth. Selective Trout by Doug Swisher and Carl Richards has been recently revised, and I believe it is still in print. Regardless, I consider this book to be the most influential of anything written on the subject in modern times. Originally published in 1971, Selective Trout continues to be relevant despite the massive changes that have occurred since it first appeared. Tracking down a copy of this historical work will not be wasted effort.

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