As any angler knows, there isn’t much that’s better than being on the water or trekking through the woods to your favourite fishing hole. However, for those moments when you can’t actually be doing what you love, why not get hooked on these great reads?
Whether you are a dedicated enthusiast or a weekend hobbyist; deep sea or sweet water; lake or river fisherman, you will want to take a look at our list of the 10… make that 15 best fishing books available on the market today. This list has it all – from the philosophical, to the funny, to the most practical how-to guides – there is something for everyone here.
As you can probably capture from the title, we started out intending to write a top 10 list; but there are so many wonderful fishing books on the market – each with its own unique value and perspective – that we had to expand the list to add 5 more.
- 1 ‘Angling Escapades’ by our very own Mike Green
- 2 #15 The Fisherman’s Ultimate Knot Guide – John E. Sherry
- 3 #14 Fishing: A Guide to Fresh and Salt-Water Fishing – George S. Fichter & Phil Francis
- 4 #13 Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die – Chris Santella
- 5 #12 The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger
- 6 #11 The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey – Linda Greenlaw
- 7 #10 The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told – Lamar Underwood
- 8 #9 In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys: 100 Recipes and Tips from the World-Famous Crew of Pike Place Fish – The Crew of Pike Place Fish, Leslie Miller and Bryan Jarr
- 9 #8 The Total Fishing Manual – Joe Cermele
- 10 #7 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
- 11 #6 The Longest Silence – Thomas McGuane
- 12 #5 The Compleat Angler – Izaak Walton
- 13 #4 Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders – John Gierach
- 14 #3 A River Runs Through It – Norman Maclean
- 15 #2 The River Why – James Duncan
- 16 #1 The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
‘Angling Escapades’ by our very own Mike Green
Before we start our list, we wanted to let you know that our very own Mike Green has released a book full of humorous fishing stories and wonderful catches from his near-70 years’-worth of angling experiences. We know we’re a little biased, but we have to say, it is a fantastic read – and very funny.
You can get a sneak preview here, as well as contacting Mike’s publisher arrange for a copy to be sent out to you, wherever you are. Thanks! OK, with no further ado, here are what we feel are the 15 best books about fishing:
#15 The Fisherman’s Ultimate Knot Guide – John E. Sherry
Let’s start with the basics – knot tying. OK, technically, this may not actually be a “book” but it’s perhaps the most necessary and certainly the most practical buy for any fisherman. Short, simple and well-illustrated, it shows even a novice angler how to master the 10 most essential knots every fisherman needs to know. And as if it wasn’t practical enough already, it is also waterproof, foldable to pocket-size and doubles as a 12-inch long ruler! There is a reason (or reasons) that this is a #1 best seller on amazon.com.
#14 Fishing: A Guide to Fresh and Salt-Water Fishing – George S. Fichter & Phil Francis
Here is another practical pick…
The “Golden Guide” series from St. Martin’s Press has been around since the late 40’s and is known for its comprehensive coverage on a wide range of nature topics. The fishing guide is no exception. This somewhat updated version (2001) is widely regarded as one of the best all-around guidebooks for the beginner angler. It is compact, easy-to-use and features plenty of nice illustrations. We highly recommend this for newbies or young anglers just learning the craft. It covers the true basics of fishing like: how to identify all kinds of fish, how to select bait and tackle, and even something as basic as how to catch and land a fish. But that’s not all. This book made our list because even experienced anglers can appreciate it. It’s a really useful little book, which makes an excellent quick reference guide for identifying fish species. It’s also useful to anglers fishing waters they may not be familiar with.
#13 Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die – Chris Santella
This is not a standard fishing guide. As the title suggests, the author takes you on what can only be described as an epic journey, visiting the 50 best fly fishing destinations around the world. The locations are described in vivid and mouthwatering detail, inspiring humble readers like us to check our bank accounts and dream of following in Santella’s footsteps. It’s not a detailed guidebook but a celebration of international angling. It’s also designed to inspire the reader to make angling trips of his or her own. What more could you want in a fishing guide-book?
There’s no doubt that Santella captures the majesty and wonder of the locations visited. He’ll leave you wanting more, but also gives a useful insight into the harsh reality of making such trips – cost, time, tackle requirements and more. And while sometimes the astonishing costs and ludicrously long tackle checklists may be disheartening, for those lucky enough to make this kind of trip, the recommendations and insights will also provide a really useful resource for holiday planning.
If nothing else, this is a great read. For those who are deliberating between different overseas trips, it’s a great comparison tool too. But for those of us who can’t visit 50 exotic fishing locations, which is probably most of us, at least we get to hear about them!
#12 The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger
Our twelfth pick is the first of four books on this list that has been adapted for the big screen. The Perfect Storm was made famous, in style, by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. If you’re not already familiar with the story, the novel chronicles the fateful journey of the Andrea Gail and its six crew members. The book is largely speculative, as the true events that took place on the vessel’s return voyage during October of 1991, facing one of the worst storms of the century, can never be confirmed. That having been said, the resulting work by Mr. Junger is mesmerizing, riveting, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching… Feel free to add your own adjectives here! It’s an intense thriller, and not a bad film either!
#11 The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey – Linda Greenlaw
If you read The Perfect Storm, then you will already be familiar with Linda Greenlaw. She was the captain of the Hannah Boden – the sister ship of the Andrea Gail. At the time the only female swordboat captain in the world (and perhaps the best), Linda Greenlaw shares her authentic and thrilling insights in this book. That’s not only the exciting world of fishing for swordfish in the Grand Banks, but also what it takes to ‘make it’ in a dangerous and male-dominated profession. We think it is even better than The Perfect Storm, mainly because it’s a true account. It’s also a NY Times National Bestseller.
#10 The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told – Lamar Underwood
We all love to hear a great fish story. How about 28 of them? This book offers perhaps the most variety of any of the books on our list. The collection of amazing stories encompasses locations, waters and fish of every type. Some of the stories may remind you of your most beloved fishing memories; others might inspire you to dream, to dare, to embark on the search of your own unbelievable fish tale. Who knows? To coin a fishing phrase, this one’s a keeper.
#9 In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys: 100 Recipes and Tips from the World-Famous Crew of Pike Place Fish – The Crew of Pike Place Fish, Leslie Miller and Bryan Jarr
We thought we would spice up our list (see what we did there?) with a slightly controversial pick on preparing and eating fish. As angling enthusiasts, most of us like to work in harmony with nature to conserve our streams, lakes, rivers and oceans by fishing responsibly. However, on occasion, we may also choose to enjoy the rewards of a hard day’s fishing by eating our catch.
So we offer, for your consideration, something that is more than just a cookbook – this is a book that takes you behind the scenes at one of the world’s most famous markets: Pike Place. It captures the enthusiastic buzz that the Pike Place fish guys are famous for. Whether you want to learn how to shuck an oyster or chuck a fish (yes, they actually teach you how to throw a fish) this book has it all! In addition to the beautiful photography, the book boasts easy-to-follow tips and recipes. It also promotes a sustainable approach to catching and enjoying your fish.
(If you are only looking for great tips and recipes without the local Seattle flavour, try Fish Market: A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood by Kathy Hunt)
#8 The Total Fishing Manual – Joe Cermele
Leave it to Field & Stream to put together the most practical, utilitarian, and downright essential guide to fishing as we know it today. From babbling brooks to open ocean, this guide helps novice and advanced fisherman alike. Well-illustrated and logically laid out, this really is a great how-to book, which has one noble purpose: to help you catch more fish! It covers everything (ok, technically 317 things) a fisherman needs to know – lures, baits, flies, tackle and equipment of all kinds. There are also strategies, technique, locations, and more – this is one of the most comprehensive fishing books ever published.
#7 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
If you’re in the mood for some romantic fiction, this could be the option you’re looking for. A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realise a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the inhospitable desert. Together, they embark on a “journey of faith and fish” to make the sheik’s dream a reality.
Following its publication in 2011, the book quickly reached ‘must-read’ status and was adapted into a Hollywood film starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. It is an uplifting story, set in an unlikely location, but it’s definitely a book that’ll move you. Of course, the main reason we like it is because the visionary sheik believes he can improve and enrich the lives of his people through fly fishing. What honest-to-goodness angler can argue with that logic?!
#6 The Longest Silence – Thomas McGuane
One of the best books on fishing ever written, this could easily have been higher on the list, but at this point it’s all subjective. McGuane’s writing style is undeniably brilliant. It is only surpassed by his obvious love for and expertise in all things fish. From fly fishing on local rivers as a child to pursuing big game on the open ocean, this series of essays covers a lifetime of fishing experiences. It reads as if the author put a little piece of his soul into every page. This is definitely not a ‘how-to’ or ‘where-to’ guidebook. It is an exceptional book about one angler’s lifetime of love and devotion to the sport.
#5 The Compleat Angler – Izaak Walton
As practical as it is inspirational, Izaak Walton’s classic work stands to this day as one of the most famous and well respected fishing books on the planet. That might sound like an overstatement but, considering the book has been in print for over 360 years, we couldn’t possibly have listed it outside our top 5. The book is half instruction manual and half global vision. It talks of how man needs to live in harmony with nature, all while championing the sport of fishing as a means to share nature as a global community. It could easily be higher on our list, if not for its somewhat archaic language and the abundance of fresher, more modern perspectives on the sport.
#4 Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders – John Gierach
Speaking of a modern perspective, nobody captures the philosophical and metaphysical aspect of fishing like John Gierach. His works (typically told in essay form) are nearly always enjoyable, however this one stands out in particular. A collection of 40 essays from six of his most beloved books it is our pick. However, we would be remiss not to single out ‘Trout Bum’ for honourable mention.
As much poet as philosopher, comedian as wordsmith, Gierach charms and amuses on every page. He will appeal to avid fishermen and novices alike. You don’t even have to be an angler to enjoy this book – it really is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. At the risk of overselling (too late?), this book is so good, you’ll be praying for rain, frost or whatever else keeps you off the riverbank. Then you’ll have an excuse to stay at home and finish reading it! Give it a try…
#3 A River Runs Through It – Norman Maclean
The winding, shady banks of Montana’s Big Blackfoot River are the setting for this loosely autobiographical (although fictional) tale. The author, Norman Maclean, infuses so much life and heart into the characters that you’ll soon find yourself getting lost in the pages. Indeed that’s what made Robert Redford decide to make it into a Hollywood film. As those who’ve read it will agree, this is not just about fishing. It also delves into the family dynamic, into the relationship between brothers, and explores a man’s connection to the river and to his fellow anglers.
Warning: you might find yourself being whisked back in time to memories of your own childhood. This book is as riveting as it is nostalgic. It will pull at your emotions too – you’ll be laughing one minute and close to tears the next!
#2 The River Why – James Duncan
This was a tough call. ‘The River Why’ could just as easily have been our number one choice. It features Gus, a fishing-obsessed loner, who breaks away from his family in search of fishing nirvana, personal meaning and self-discovery. Instead, he becomes more and more disenchanted. He contemplates man’s lack of care and connection to the natural world. Fishing serves as a backdrop, while the reader follows Gus’s emotional search for higher purpose and wisdom. The book attempts to answer some big questions, but it’s an enjoyable read that, within a few pages, is almost guaranteed to have you hooked (sorry – couldn’t resist). Don’t miss this one!
#1 The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Many won’t be surprised to find this book here, but how many of you have actually read it? We honestly believe we saved the best for last and this book is on many people’s lists of must-read books. And that’s regardless of whether or not they like fishing.
Talk about your classic fish tale – man searches for fish, man catches fish, man loses fish (only joking, we’d never spoil it for you!). Hemingway’s fishing epic is renowned for its passion and characterisation. Its highs and lows, as the protagonist surges between triumph and defeat, are enthralling. And, while there may not be any practical fishing tips, there are more than a few wonderful life lessons to be extracted from it.
This is perhaps the heaviest read on our list, but it’s practically required reading on many American literature course. It’s also the only book on our list to be considered a true classic. Hemingway is a legitimate literary icon. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and a Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 – mainly thanks to this book. But despite its pedigree, the book is a relatively easy read, thanks mainly to Hemingway’s understated style and the simplicity of the plot. If you’re going to take the plunge and get a copy, may we recommend the hard bound version? This is a book you may one day want to pass on to your own little angler.
Well, that’s our list of the 15 best fishing books. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope these books will help fuel your angling passion – in between your own legendary fishing trips of course!