MONUMENTAL it is, this remarkable compendium. From the earliest times to the present, it encompasses trout fishing from all angles, covering in almost infinite detail every conceivable topic of interest to anglers, from the anatomy and physiology of the Salmoniform fishes to the behavior and philsophy (often strange and sometimes divine) of those human beings who make the study and pursuit of trout a lifelong activity, as Ernest Schwiebert has done.

The simple title, Trout , is somewhat misleading and may not prepare the unsuspecting reader for the enormous breadth and depth contained in these information-laden pages. Here one can find answers to questions about the most technical minutiae, or about matters of larger scope and interest, relating to tackle and techniques or to the origin and evolution of the sport of angling and the growth of its own remarkable body of literature over the ages. Biographical sketches of famous fishermen (and women) from the ancients to the moderns, as well as virtually everything that can be said of angling today as art and as science, is gathered together here from printed and other historical sources and from the author's own vast personal experience and observation.

Trout is profusely illustrated, and, astonishingly, nearly all of the drawings -- literally hundreds of them -- were prepared by Schwiebert himself. His portraits of various famous anglers, many of them copies of photographs or other previously published portraits, are not uniformly successful, but his drawings of trout, insects, artificial flies, tackle, and fishing streams or fishing scenes are impeccable.

Although true lovers of angling literature will still preter to own and read for themselves the dozens of splended individual works that have been written over the centuries about this incomparable sport, Schwiebert's Trout can provide a good substitute for dozens of separate volumes.

In its loving, detailed, informative and respectful treatment of its subjects, Trout is a lineal descendant of Izaak Walton's classic book, The Compleat Angler , but Schwiebert's opus overflows with knowledge and lore from muriad tributary streams of history, science, technology and culture that Father Walton and his contemporaties wot but little of four centuries ago. The only recent publication which might fairly be compared in scope with Trout is McClane's New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia , (Second Edition, 1974). This encyclopedia is, however, somewhat different in nature and design, and is the work of a veritable army of contributors and institutional supporters, under the direction of A. J. McClane, Executive Editor of Field and Stream magazine.

The regular edition of Trout comes on the market in two thick volumes, packaged in a handsome slipcase with a beautiful Schwiebert color painting of three trout -- brook, brown and rainbow -- on the cover. (An even more deluxe edition of 750 copies, signed, numbered and specially bound, wiht a Schwiebert-tied fly included, is also available at $195 per set.) The division into two volumes notwithstanding, Trout actually consists of six individual "books," each of which is at least 178 pages long and could well stand alone as a substantial and interesting treaties in its own right: Book One, "The Evolution of Fly-Fishing"; Book Two, "American Species of Trout and Grayling"; Book Three, "Physiology, Habitat and behavior"; Book Four, "The Tools of the Trade" (by far the longest section, 449 pages); Book Five, "Casting, Wading and Other Skills"; and Book Six, "Trout Strategies, Techniques and Tactics." More than 80 pages of appendices, including such useful material as "Notes on New Equipment," precede the bibliography and indexes and make all of the back sections particularly valuable as guides to external as well as internal excursions of discovery and exploration.

Surely no other fly fisherman in human history can have fished more widely than Ernest Schwiebert has, and surely no one else has combined angling, artistic and writing talents to better advantage. His authoritative and entertaining books and essays on angling for trout and salmon have been required reading for several generations of anglers and probably no other individual could have "matched Schwiebert's hatch" in this latest achievement, certain to stand as a landmark book in the history of angling literature. Trout is Schwiebert's crowning achievement and firmly establishes his place in the firmament of the immortals of angling, right up there with Izaak Walton and a very select circle.

The late Arnold Gingrich, founding editor of Esquire magazine and anglerphile extraordinaire, wrote in 1970 of an earlier Schwiebert volume, The Salmon of the World , "It's all here, the lore and the lure, the literature and the ecology, the natural science and the romantic appeal, the whole mystique...." He would readily agree, one can be sure, with the assessment of no less of an expert than A. J. McClane himself: "Trout is destined to remain the great reference work for generations of trout fishermen to come."