June 30, 2020
By Bill Bowers
Is there a fly fisher alive who does not love brook trout? For many anglers, Salvelinus fontinalis is the fish that dreams are made of. But this is not because of their size. Most brookies are actually quite small.
No, anglers cherish brookies because they are stunningly beautiful fish, and because they thrive in cold, clear, highly oxygenated streams and unspoiled wilderness lakes and ponds. The pristine habitats where brook trout swim seem to embody what fly fishing is all about: tempting beautiful, wild fish to rise to a well-presented fly in stunning natural surroundings.
Of course, brook trout are not “real” trout at all, but char, closely related to Arctic char, lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden trout, and kundzha (white-spotted char) of Russia and the Far East. The brook trout is native to Eastern North America—various regions of the United States and Canada. The brookie is held in such high esteem that it has been proclaimed the official fish of nine states: Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Bob Mallard’s superb Squaretail: The Definitive Guide to Brook Trout and Where to Find Them explores the world of brook trout via an attractive, large-format (8½ x 11 inches) book printed on high-quality, glossy paper and lavishly illustrated with beautiful color photos and a few paintings. The photos alone, of brook trout and their beautiful habitats, are worth the price of admission, and readers can be forgiven for leafing through the book just to gaze upon the gorgeous illustrations.
But Squaretail is also packed with valuable information about brookies: where to find them, the best fly tackle and techniques for catching them, threats to their survival, and the best specific waters where you can catch them, all presented in a well-written, authoritative, yet accessible style. The book opens with a recap of the evolution, natural history, and biology of brook trout, followed by a nuts-and-bolts discussion of tackle and techniques.
An extensive “Where to Go” section details specific waters and regions where fly rodders can pursue brook trout today, including both the famous (i.e., the Kennebec River in Maine, Big Spring Creek in Pennsylvania, and the Nipigon River in Ontario) and the little-known (i.e., the Savage River in Maryland and Red Brook in Massachusetts). Mallard also covers a handful of “nonnative” waters in the American West and Argentina that offer quality fishing for introduced brook trout.
Another dozen chapters present brook trout opportunities on specific public lands in the U.S., such as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and Baxter State Park in Maine, Adirondack Park in New York, Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. “Other Fisheries” explores specific brook trout populations and water types, large geographic areas, and the like: Pennsylvania wilderness streams, sea-run brook trout, “coaster” brookies of the upper Great Lakes region, fishing the Appalachian Trail, and more.
Conservation gets it own extensive chapter, detailing current brook trout population status and threats from pollution, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, overfishing, and poor management practices, but offering hope for the future.
Mallard’s book is a meticulously researched work that covers modern angling for one of our sport’s most beautiful and revered fish species. Packed with helpful, accessible information, Squaretail would make a welcome and visually striking addition to any angling library.