Books about Entomology



by Gary LaFontaine

As LaFontaine states midway through the book, "The study of caddisflies is the graduate school of an angler's education." His book clearly mirrors both the diversity and complexity of its subject matter - caddisflies. LaFontaine mastery of the bug and how to present it to trout in it's varying life stages is apparent. But the crowning achievement in these pages is the bridge LaFontaine builds between this insect's world and the mind of the angler. It's a bridge every angler must eventually cross in order to master the complex interaction between these bugs and feeding trout. I couldn't really come up with the number of days and the river miles you would need to wade in order to gain the knowledge Lafontaine distills onto paper... but a lifetime wouldn't be a stretch here (wearing out many pairs of wading boots along the way).

The writing takes a no-nonsense approach, but you feel his excitement and willingness to share the insight he has gained with the reader. The expression "doing one's homework" comes to mind when reading Caddisflies. Lafontaine spent ten years of intensive study (and of course fly-fishing) to develop the material and support his observations. As he put it: "It was not writing that took so long... The subject, however, proved to be so fascinating that it deserved much more than just a rehash of the past literature or a smattering of untested opinions."

Lafontaine structures the content into two parts: (1) Tying and Fishing Caddisfly Imitations and (2) The Biology of Caddisflies. The first part of the book is likely as comprehensive and authoritative treatment of tying and fishing caddisfly patterns you'll find published today. Even if you don't seat behind the vise tying these flies, the chapters offer as much "why" as they do "how" (i.e., the thinking behind using a particular material, color, shape).

The second half focuses on the biology of these amazing insects with well over 1200 species of caddisflies in North America. Lafontaine highlights a key attribute leading to their bio-diversity today: "Caddisflies basically owe their diversification in the aquatic world to the ability to make silk. This is the evolutionary tactic, a wonderfully functional tool, that has been used in so many ways to solve problems of dislodgement, food gathering, respiration, and protection." A comprehensive listing of each caddisfly genera provides a great reference. To aid the angler, Lafontanie uses the listing to emphasize the species which are more likely to force a trout into selective feeding.

After reading Caddisflies, I'm not ready to claim I've completed the caddis "graduate school of angling." That claim may come after a couple more readings and application on the water. I can say for certain that my appreciation and understanding of caddisflies has gone up dramatically.