updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Growing up in Easton, Conn., Prosek first learned about nature from his father, Louis, an astronomy teacher and avid birder. "The summers and late spring in my town just seemed to come alive," says Prosek, whose piscine obsession was kindled by a magazine picture of a rare blue-back trout. Prosek began writing experts for information about trout species. In recent years, he has traveled from Maine to Alaska to catch, photograph, release and, finally, paint the objects of his fascination.
Prosek even spoke about trout in his 1993 valedictory speech—titled "The River of Life"—at Joel Barlow High School. Now he is off to England on a $1,500 grant from Yale to explore the chalk streams of famed 17th-century fishing author Izaak Walton. James's dad is proud of his son's accomplishment—and a little amused by its irony. "The fish hooked James," says his father, "instead of James hooking the fish."