December 3, 2012

Books I have known

All of us who fly fish have a book, or books, that we have fond feelings for. Some of these books may be considered our "bibles" in that at the time we read them we had inspiration or an epiphany regarding something, be it a technique, a fly pattern, reading the water, etc, that changed how we fish.

Like many of you, over the years I have accrued a small library of fly fishing books. I learned something from most of them, but there are a few that I feel really connected with the way that I fish and the goals I have in fly fishing. Interestingly enough most all of these books have nothing directly to do with tenkara! That said, a lot of the advise given in them may be extrapolated into the tenkara paradigm.

Here are a few of the books that changed my fly fishing life (but not necessarily tenkara):

Western Streamside Guide by Dave Hughes

This was the first "real" fly fishing book that I ever bought. I was in medical school in southern California and I had just learned that I had matched for Internal Medicine residency in Oregon. I had fished a lot when I was a boy, and I had even learned to tie flies in the 7th grade, but I never had learned to fly fish. When I learned we would be moving to Oregon, that blessed land of green trees and endless water, I decided I was going to learn how to fly fish.

One day while in the San Dimas REI I saw this book. I was dirt poor at the time, but I decided I could afford this book. I bought it. I read it like I was starving! I learned a lot about aquatic insects, but I also learned a lot about fly fishing in general. If you have read any of his books then you will understand what I say about Dave Hughes' writing. It is both instructional and entertaining. I have nearly worn this book out; I even had to glue the cover back on! Even though I don't read it much any more (I read his Trout from Small Streams and Wet Flies yearly) this book still holds a sentimental place in my bookshelf.


Fly Fishing the South Platte River by Roger Hill

After finishing my medical residency I moved to Denver, Colorado to do a fellowship in Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant Medicine. While in Oregon, I had learned to fly fish and was thoroughly enjoying it. I also had learned to make my own fly rods and had greatly expanded my repertoire of flies to tie.

So, when I moved to Colorado I thought I was pretty much the master fly fisher. Then I went fishing on the South Platte! Wow, what a tough river! I didn't get much time off from the hospital but when I did I would try to go the river. Trip after trip I got skunked! Needless to say, the South Platte humbled me. I once again realized that I had a lot more to learn.

I picked up this book while in a fly shop in Aurora, CO. I think this book taught me more about fly fishing difficult waters than any other book I have read. Mr Hill outlines the equipment, tactics, flies and techniques to be successful on this most challenging of western waters. I learned that all my #12 Oregon flies were WAY to big for the South Platte. If you can see the fly well enough to tie it on your tippet then it is too big for the South Platte! OK, maybe that's exaggerating a little but not by much.

This book is very practical in its advise. I like that -- no scientific mumbo jumbo but good, solid practical advise that really works!


Presentation by Gary Borger

I picked up this book in Colorado as well. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this book has become my "bible" for all things fly fishing. I have some other excellent books that are newer and similar in content, but none have struck me so deeply as Presentation. Maybe it is because I was ready for its content when it came along.

Mr. Borger covers all things fly fishing in this book. Many concepts that he writes about I never even thought to consider. Tactics, tackle, patterns, knots, water types, fish behavior, rod mechanics, the properties of visible light in water, ex cetera are all interspersed with instructional antidotes making this book a wealth of information. I still refer to it often to make sure I am doing things correctly -- the Borger way


Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniels

Up until now, none of the books I have mentioned could be thought of as tenkara books. This book, however, just might be a tenkara book disguised as a western fly fishing book. With the excepting of Dave Hughes' Wet Flies, this book has taught me more about subsurface tactics that I can use in my pursuit of tenkara than any other book.

This book is a relativity new acquisition. I started Czech nymphing about three years ago and I needed some more instruction on the best approach to this new (at least to me) way of subsurface fishing. I have fished with 10 foot fly rods, but I feel that "tenkara" or should I say, fix line rods, are the way to go when using a short line to dredge up trout. This book is really great in learning all things about fly fishing subsurface.

As the cover says "Czech, Polish, French, UK, US  and more" styles of subsurface fly fishing are covered in this book. Not only are they covered, but they are covered well! Excellent color pictures and clear instructional prose make this book a wonderful reference for anyone who is nymph fishing. Most of the techniques described therein can be easily translated into "tenkara" speak.  The flies described are not sakasa kebari, but they work -- even on the end of a tenkara rod! The fish don't seem to care if they are not reversed hackle flies.

Most of my books sit in my bookshelf; this one sits on my reading table for quick reference. Yes, I like it that much.


So there you have it, the books that have influenced me the most in fly fishing. I am fully aware that none of them are "tenkara" books and that none are in Japanese. I am also aware that there are other books that are excellent in the field of fly fishing -- I have tons of them -- but these are my personal favorites.

What are the fly fishing books that have affected you most? Hughes, LaFontaine, Teeny, Kreh, Lawson, Harrop.......? Or do you prefer more literary books like those from Gierach and others?


  1. I have Borger's Nymphing book. The first time I read it was like taking a biology class on the trout. That guy really knows his stuff.

  2. For small stream anglers, Dave Hughes' TROUT FROM SMALL STREAMS is a must. This primer is well-written and chockful of useful information. More literary authors would include Leeson, McGuane, Checchio, Gierach, and a host of others. But I would strongly recommend reading the late Harry Middleton. While not solely an angling author, his ON THE SPINE OF TIME, is a masterful paean to the Smoky Mtns and their trout. Probably the best writer many have never heard of.

    1. That's a good list. I need to check those authors out!



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