James Prosek and Native Species

James Prosek and Native Species

This issue showcases the debut of a unique column called "James Prosek's Trout of the World" by FR&R's newest contributing editor. As young as he is-not

  • By: Paul Guernsey
This issue showcases the debut of a unique column called "James Prosek's Trout of the World" by FR&R's newest contributing editor. As young as he is-not yet 30-James Prosek needs no introduction to most anglers. His first book, Trout: An Illustrated History, published while he was still an undergraduate at Yale, was the angling world's biggest literary event since Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing. The New York Times Connecticut Weekly immediately dubbed him "the Audubon of the fishing world," Tom Brokaw, the angling anchorman, proclaimed him a "national treasure," and his career has continued on a sharply upward trajectory ever since. His subsequent works include Joe and Me; Early Love and Brook Trout; Trout of the World; Fly-fishing the 41st Parallel; and The Complete Angler, a Peabody Award-winning documentary about Izaak Walton. He is currently finishing a book about eels, the research for which took him around the world.

And, as if being good at what he does, as well as wildly successful at it, were not enough, he is also an incredibly modest, almost shy, young man who, truth to tell, often seems simultaneously amused and bemused by the fuss that gets made over him by people who are usually quite a bit older than he is.

James' chief accomplishment as an artist and writer has been to help many of us broaden our perspective on the world of trout, expanding our narrow picture of the generic "brownie," "brookie," "rainbow" and "cutt" into an enchanting panorama of species, subspecies and local variations, all described with accuracy and painted with a glowing palette. Trout, for instance, depicts 68 North American trouts, chars, and salmons, while Trout of the World contains paintings and descriptions of over 100 salmonids, some of which live in such seemingly inhospitable habitats as North Africa and Afghanistan. Prosek shows us that each of these fish is a miracle of nature that possesses its own unique and irreplaceable beauty.

Unfortunately, because of such factors as poaching, development, logging and environmental changes, many of them also are not long for this world. But Prosek has a deep love for his subjects-as should we all-and he would therefore like to postpone their extinction for as long as possible, and perhaps forever. It is for this reason that he recently teamed up with Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia company, to launch "World Trout," [see Short Casts, January/February] an effort to heighten public awareness of-and to raise money for-vanishing trout stocks and their disappearing habitat worldwide. According to James, in many less-developed countries just a few thousand dollars to hire a watchman or buy some crucial timber rights or to purchase an easement can often go a long way in the fight to protect a species.

"You'd be amazed what just $10,000 can do in a place like Slovenia," he says. (For further information, visit the Patagonia Web site, www.patagonia.com.)

James' desire to call attention to the plight of native trout and salmon is also at the heart of his new FR&R column. From here on, a couple of times a year he will choose one of the world's vanishing salmonids, and he will both illustrate that fish and its surroundings for FR&R's readers and tell us all about it in his own words. Every time it runs, "James Prosek's Trout of the World" will occupy a two-page spread in the magazine.

In this issue, James introduces his new column. I hope you enjoy his work-and please don't forget our vanishing trout of the world.