Bugwater

Reviewed by Scott Richmond

Should you believe me when I tell you that this is a great book and that you ought to rush out and buy it?

Would you still believe me if disclosed that:

  1. Author Arlen Thomason is a long time poster on the Westfly Bulletin Board
  2. Many of this book's photos first appeared on Westfly
  3. The book is dedicated, in part, to the Westfly community
  4. Arlen has donated a dozen books to Westfly to use as fundraisers
  5. The book contains some drawings by Bill Marshall, a Westflyer whose artwork hangs on my walls
  6. There are some flies tied by Monica Mullen, another Westflyer
  7. I know Arlen and think he's a great guy

So is it possible for me to write a review that is unbiased and wholly objective? You bet! I've examined my conscience, and can state without reservation that I'd love this book even if Arlen had never been on Westfly and was a total stranger to me.

What's Inside

Bugwater details "that soggy place inhabited by creepy, crawly, hopping, flying, wiggling creatures we call . . . bugs." In seventeen chapters, Thomason takes us through the yearly cycle of insects and other critters eaten by trout. The focus is on western species, so the book is well suited to anyone fly fishing in this website's territory.

Anyone familiar with Thomason's posts on Westfly knows what to expect from the photographs. They are magnificent close-ups that reveal the world of insects like you've never seen it. Insects are shown in their habitat--in all stages, and sometimes in the transition from one stage to the next. You'll see amazing, fascinating detail and gain new insights--insights that should translate directly into better fly fishing. In all, there are 337 color photos, many of them full page or half page.

The Bottom Line

I expected the photos to be stunning, and they are. Having so many in one place at one time is almost overwhelming. But there's more to this book than the photos: Thomason's text is excellent. He is chatty while having scientific rigor, interesting while detailed. He knows just what subjects to bring up, which to leave alone, and when to stop writing and move on to the next topic.

I knew Arlen was an outstanding macro photographer; I did not know he was such a skilled writer. You could buy this book just for the photos, but you'd miss a lot if you didn't read the text as well.

To be a good fly angler, you have to understand both the trout and what they prey upon; you must understand "bugwater." This book aids that endeavor like no other. It will make you a better fly angler and a better fly tyer. That's my objective opinion. Trust me.

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).