Trout Species of North America

Through watercolor paintings, Prosek has dedicated his unique talent to bringing life trout species of North America, several of which are becoming critically endangered fish.


| May 2013



Trout of the World

James Prosek profiles over 100 varieties of trout through watercolor paintings in "Trout of the World." Learn about about the diverse variety of trout species of North America.

Cover Courtesy Abram Books

Prosek has a passion for the trout species and conveys their beauty with the stroke of his brush in Trout of the World (Abrams Books, 2013), a collection of 100 gorgeous watercolor paintings. The text provides an historical profile of each fish along with personal reflections by the author. Prosek savors the beauty of various fishing spots, along with the fate of the world of trout, and also contemplates man's role in extinction of animals. A must for the library of the recreational fisherman as well as those interested in ichthyology. The following is an excerpt on trout species of North America from the chapter “Selected Diversity of North American Trouts”. 

In September 2000, driving east from California to Colorado, I decided to stop in the desert to try to catch a native trout called the Humboldt cutthroat. I took Route 50 around Lake Tahoe and then into the desert wasteland, where the air hovered at around 100 degrees. I spent the night in Elko, Nevada, lights flashing from casinos, the vibration of trucks on Route 80 shaking the water in the glass on my bedside table.

The next day I drove along the roads outside Elko toward the upper tributaries of the Mary’s River. Rabbitbrush was in flower along the dirt trails, mountains formed up ahead, and a plume of dust behind me obscured what had come before. Antelope congregated around a water hole. A golden eagle flew across the road. I hit a whip-poor-will with my car and stopped to look for it and lament its death.

I was following a publication put out by the state of Nevada in the 1970s, a survey of remaining populations of the native cutthroat trout in these upper tributaries. It looked as if the stream with the greatest abundance of fish was one called Wildcat Creek. I wondered if, some thirty years later, the fish were still there. I followed a topographical map to find it. After turning onto a smaller dirt road on the other side of a cattle guard, I slowed to speak with a man standing by his truck — the only person I’d seen for miles. His name was Bill Gibbs, and he owned the ranch through which Wildcat Creek ran. He was watching yearling cattle that would soon be brought along Route 80 to feedlots in Nebraska. I asked him if he knew about the trout in Wildcat Creek. Would he mind if I fished it? He said that the summer before, a wildfire had burned on the property and gone right over the creek, and he wasn’t sure if the trout had survived. He pointed to where the creek was. It would be about a mile walk from the road, and I was welcome to fish it.

When I saw the creek after a walk through the hot desert country, it looked like a creek in Hades. I half expected to see a fallen angel crouched beside it. The willows along the bank had been charred black, but there was a small intermittent blue ribbon of water coursing through. It resembled a sliver of sky. And when I peered into the water through the tangle of burned brush, I saw fish, remarkable luminous trout, and not so small, considering that the creek was no more than three feet across in most places. I used only the top segment of my three-piece fly-fishing rod to dap a fly into small pools that I approached quietly and carefully.

In short order I caught one. Then another, and another. I carefully laid them on my hat to take pictures and then let them go. I made sketches with graphite and colored pencil that might help me remember the pink, purple, and ochre hues that I would try to recreate in the studio. The trout I released were so eager to bite that I probably could have caught each one a second time. I was covered in dust from crawling along the bank, and charcoal lines were drawn on my clothes from the burned limbs of sagebrush and willow and aspen that I’d pushed through as I walked. That evolution could produce such a fish, able to survive what nature had thrown at it for millennia, was remarkable.





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