The Orvis Guide to Stillwater Trout Fishing
No need to fear lakes when you’ve got Rowley’s new book in hand.
By Dana Sturn

If you want or need a primer on stillwater fly fishing, look no further than Phil Rowley’s new book The Orvis Guide to Stillwater Trout Fishing (Lyons Press, 2021). It’s a complete guide and reference for the lake fly fisher.

I’ve known Rowley for years. In that time, he and retired Canadian fisheries biologist Brian Chan have become the Dynamic Duo of stillwater fly fishing. What Swisher and Richards were to trout in steams, Rowley and Chan are to stillwaters. Although they have collaborated on various projects over the years, Rowley also has his own work, including a long running fly-tying column in BC Outdoors magazine. With this new book, Rowley has reached the pinnacle of the stillwater game.

Over the years there have been a few books published on the subject, notably Ron Cordes and Randall Kaufmann’s Lake Fishing with a Fly, and Morris and Chan on Fly Fishing Trout Lakes by Skip Morris and Brian Chan. These, along with Steve Raymond’s excellent Kamloops: An Angler’s Study of the Kamloops Trout, have been my primary references. With the publication of Stillwater Trout Fishing, now I’ll only need one lake book on my nightstand.

For anglers familiar with trout in moving water, lakes are a mystery. But they are not inherently difficult; rather, their unfamiliarity makes them so. Tom Rosenbauer, fly fishing’s senior lecturer, presents this best in his foreword to Rowley’s new book:

"I find myself periodically claiming to dislike stillwater trout fishing. There’s no current to play in, you typically need some kind of watercraft, you often need to go to sinking lines. But, like most things we claim to have no interest in, it’s more from a lack of familiarity and, honestly, a lack of knowledge that brings me to this conclusion. I suck at stillwater trout fishing."

Learning lakes is a little like learning a new language. Sure, if you’re only planning a short trip you can pick up enough to get by, but a lengthy stay requires a more significant commitment. Thankfully, Rowley’s book gives us a great place to begin the journey towards stillwater mastery. With chapters covering everything from equipment to entomology, The Orvis Guide to Stillwater Trout Fishing has something for novice and experienced stillwater anglers. Full color photographs and drawings can be found throughout the book, illustrating everything from bugs to bobbers. And as I write this in the first few days of September, I find myself returning to Rowley’s discussions of fall fishing in his excellent chapter “How Lakes Work.”

Recently, North American stillwater anglers have become interested in fishing from drifting boats, what’s known in the United Kingdom as “loch style.” Rowley has provided a helpful introduction to this approach in a later chapter. With information on watercraft, tackle and presentation techniques, the novice loch-style angler has all the information they need to get started.

The final chapter is essential reading for anyone who fishes lakes. “What’s In Your Fly Box?” gives us a peek inside Rowley’s lake boxes, with helpful recipes for attractor patterns and those flies that imitate specific organisms that make up a trout’s diet. A winter spent tying up these flies should pay huge dividends when the ice comes off.

The Orvis Guide to Stillwater Trout Fishing by Phil Rowley is published by Lyons Press. 342 pages. $39.95 USD

Dana Sturn

Dana Sturn is a steelhead devotee and the founder of Spey Pages. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and can be found each year, minus 2020 of course, swinging up chinook and steel on the Dean River, among other places. Follow him on IG @danawsturn