Review: Challenge of the Trout

By Duanne Dunham

There is perhaps no one in my generation who has contributed more excellent, tried-and-true information about trout fishing than Gary LaFontaine. This says a lot, because we have many, many terrific books and outstanding lecturers to aid us in our search for better and more effective tactics and equipment to fool our wily prey.

Gary was a casual friend whom I enjoyed listening to in his various presentations at sportsmen’s shows. I regret that I did not take him up on his invitation to fish with him one summer. The very next summer, he was in a wheelchair, stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which took his life all too soon.

I bought Challenge of the Trout the year it was published--1983-- and he kindly autographed a few years later: “For Duane Dunham, for find days with challenging trout.” I had told Gary that I read it every year for about five or six years, trying to absorb all its wisdom so I could apply it on the lakes or streams I fished. He laughed and said, “You really got your money’s worth, didn’t you?”

What You'll Find

Challenge of the Trout has thirteen chapters in three major divisions: The Water; The Technique; The Natural Feed. Gary was trained as a psychologist, so when he presents material, it is well organized and progresses properly from simple to more complex ideas and practices. 

He discusses streams both small and large, as well as lakes, often taking an underwater point of view. From this perspective he presents his philosophy of dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs, then finishes with the “minnow-fly.” 

In the section The Natural Feed, Gary is at his very best, reflecting the hours he and his associates have spent with scuba gear observing trout activity. Caddis, mayflies, stoneflies, and grasshoppers receive his analysis as trout food.

The Bottom Line

I began fly fishing in 1962, but I still profit from re-reading this superior book. I’m sure there’s something there I’ve missed or forgotten.

If I could own only one fly fishing book, this is the one I’d choose.

Challenge of the Trout), by Gary LaFontaine. Published by Mountain Press in 1983. Readily available on the used book market (google the title).

Duane Dunham is the author of Barebow, his account of taking every North American big game species with bow-and-arrow.