Book Review: “Fly Fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass”

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fly fishing for freshwater striped bass

By Spencer Durrant | Managing Editor 

Henry Cowen’s new book Fly Fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass is one of the most thorough, exhaustively-researched guidebooks I’ve ever read. After going through Cowen’s book, I’m already looking at my summer schedule, hoping to find some extra time where I can go fish Lake Powell for stripers. That’s a large part of why this book is such an effective tool. It doesn’t just tell you the techniques you need to master to catch freshwater stripers – it makes you want to go catch one yourself.

What really makes this book work, however, is that Cowen is truly the right man to tackle this project. After moving to Georgia in 1997 – and away from the striper fisheries in the New Jersey-NewYork-Connecticut area – Cowen wasn’t able to chase the fish he’d become a self-proclaimed fanatic for.  After tons of trial and error, Cowen established himself as an authority on fishing for “sodium-free stripers.” By 2017, the late Lefty Kreh told Cowen that “the (fly fishing) industry needs a book to be written on this subject and [you need] to be the one to write it.”

If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I’m not sure what is.

What You’ll Learn

Between Cowen’s research and Dave Whitlock’s foreword (yes, that Dave Whitlock) there’s enough information in this book that you’ll need to read it a few times to really absorb it all.

In a nutshell, though, Cowen broke things down into nine chapters:

      • About The Fish
      • Where To Find The Fish (Top Reservoirs In the USA)
      • The Food Source
      • Tactics Used To Locate Striped Bass In Reservoirs
      • Tactics Used To Catch Striped Bass In Reservoirs
      • Tactics Used To Locate Striped Bass In River
      • Tactics Used To Catch Striped Bass In Rivers
      • Equipment For Striped Bass
      • Boats And Related Equipment

As you can see, Cowen didn’t leave anything to the imagination. He goes into exquisite detail in each chapter, and not just through the written word. Full-color photos, illustrations, and diagrams are on almost every page. This helps cement the techniques and tips Cowen writes about into your memory.

The chapter on top reservoirs is particularly helpful, because Cowen isn’t afraid to list some truly great fisheries there if it helps the striper world expand, and after the publication of his book, I’m sure it will.

There’s even sections in this book that cover moon phases and water quality, and their respective effects on striped bass. If you can think of an instance, or a factor, that might impact fly fishing for freshwater striped bass, it’s in Cowen’s book.

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As someone who has only fished for large and smallmouth bass, sunfish, trout, char, and salmon, Cowen’s book really opened my eyes to just how much I’m missing out on. Now, living in the Rockies, striped bass aren’t exactly around every bend in the next creek, so I can’t be too hard on myself. But like most anglers, I travel enough that I don’t have a good reason to not have at least tried fly fishing for freshwater striped bass. These fish are unique and attractive in the way only a challenge can be, which is yet another thing Cowen does exceptionally well in this book.

And just like in trout fishing, stripers demand their own unique vocabulary and language. Cowen introduces you to it with the deft touch you’d expect from someone who’s been guiding stripers since 2000. Throughout the book, you’ll find tips on fishing a point, a hump, saddle, or blow-through, or how to use the countdown method to ensure your flies get in front of stripers. Perhaps that’s my own naiveté showing through, since I don’t fish stillwater much, but there’s certainly more to fly fishing for freshwater striped bass than a sink-tip line and a clouser minnow.

Speaking of, you’ll get plenty of ideas for patterns in this book, too. That’s not a surprise, since Cowen is a fly designer for Umpqua. You also get techniques for fishing those flies, and one of the better explanations of a strip-set that I’ve ever read.

Wrapping Up

Cowen doesn’t hold back any of his hard-won knowledge, and that alone earns this book a read. An angler who’s willing to share what they’ve learned is the most valuable asset fly fishing has, and we’re lucky that someone as striper-crazed as Cowen was willing to let us into his world.

Fly Fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass was published by Skyhorse Publishing. It retails for $16.99.

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, guide, and bamboo rod builder from Utah. He’s the Lead Guide at The Utah Fly Fishing Company, the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a columnist for Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Instagram/Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant. 


  1. I got this book in early December and couldn’t put it down. It’s THE best fly fishing how-to book I’ve ever read. Very in-depth and to the point in every chapter. Helps that I have an amazing stupid bass reservoir only 4 miles from home to go chase now.

    • Make sure you reach out to Henry on Facebook and let him know! I’ve had the chance to chat with him since he sent me the book, he’s a good dude.

      And you are lucky to have that reservoir! The nearest good striper fishing for me is an hour away, I think. I’ve gotta put some time in on ’em this spring.

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