February 18, 2017

My Library of Fly Fishing Books -- part I

In a past post, I received a comment asking to show my library of fly fishing books. I have talked about a few books in the past, but I have not ever shown my library in detail. My library is not as comprehensive as some may have, but I only keep books that mean something to me or that I like. I have my library divided into two categories, how to or instructional books, and fly tying books. There are a few books that are special to me for various reasons -- given to me by friends, they played a pivotal part in my learning fly fishing, they connect to a special stream or creek, etc. I've got quite a few books, but only a select few have made the grade for my library; all the others got sent away.

Here are a few of my favorite how to or instructional books:

Author: Gary Borger
Tomorrow River Press
Copyright 1995

I picked up this book when I lived in Colorado and was fishing with a rod/reel/PVC line. 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 (technically, physically, intellectually) for its content when I purchased it.

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, etc are all interspersed with instructional antidotes making this book a wealth of information. I still refer to it often, even though I don't fish with a reel anymore, to make sure I am doing things correctly -- the Borger way.

Fly Fishing the South Platte River: An Angler's Guide
Author: Roger Hill
Pruett Publishing Company
Copyright 1991

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. 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, just good, solid practical advise that really works!

I believe this book is out of print, but copies can be obtained from Amazon and other used book sellers.  My copy is precious to me and will always be in my library.

Fishing In Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fly Fishing Guide
Author: Madelynne Dimess Sheehan
Flying Pencil Publications
My first copy was copyright 1988

This is the fishing guide book god father! This is what any guide book should and hopes to be! If you've not seen this book, then you don't know what I'm talking about; if you have, then you know.

This book gives every water in Oregon. Lake, river, stream, creek, pond, estuary, on and on. It tells you how to get there, and what to expect, and what you'll catch.  It tells you what to use and how to use it. It is the I Ching of fly fishing guide books. No lie, this book is the best!

I bought my first edition shortly after moving to Oregon for medical residency. I still have it; it's dog-eared and worn out. I have underlined pages, drawn pictures, made notes in the margins, and crossed referenced.

Even though I don't live in Oregon anymore, and rarely get to go there to fish, I buy every new and updated edition when it gets released. The latest edition is twice the size of my old one and is still so much fun to read.

The Soft-Hackled Fly Addict
Soft-Hackled Fly Imitations
Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies: A Survey of the Literature Complete with Original Patterns 1747-Present
Author: Sylvester Nemes
Stackpole Books
Copyrights 1981, 1991, 2004, respectively

These three books are the complete trilogy of fly fishing using soft-hackled flies. They are the books that inspired another of my favorite fly fishing references, Dave Hughes' Wet Flies: Tying and Fishing Soft-Hackles, Winged and Wingless Wets, and Fuzzy Nymphs, and therefore are the the perfect go to books.

These are the books, as well as Wet Flies, that got my converted to fishing in the surface film or under, long before I started tenkara. Even though they are not tenkara books, their patterns and techniques fit our way of fishing perfectly. For the past eight years or more, I have fished almost exclusively subsurface -- blame it on these books!

These books are not like modern fly fishing books. The pictures and illustrations are not up to modern standards, but that's OK with me. I din't obtain them for pretty pictures. I got them for the knowledge contained therein and their historical/sentimental value.

Two of these books are signed by Syl. I would have loved to get the last one signed.

Dynamic Nymphing: Tactics, Techniques, and Flies from Around the World
Author: George Daniels
Stackpole Books
Copyright 2012

Maybe you've noticed but none of the books I have previously 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 and Sly Nemes's books, 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 one of my newer books. I started Czech nymphing about ten 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, particularly with heavy nymphs.

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.

Western Streamside Guide: Recognizing the Natural, Selecting the Imitation
Author: Dave Hughes
Frank Amato Publishing
Copyright 1987

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 at OHSU. 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 library.

This book is signed by Dave, and it will be passed down to my grandchildren.

These are my favorite books. I'm sure you ones that are precious to you, for a variety of reasons. But whether we have the same favorites or not, make sure you share your knowledge with others and help others along the way.


  1. Tom, thanks for sharing. It's always interesting to get a glimpse of another fisherman's library.

    1. Tom,the book that I keep close at hand is "Prospecting for Trout" by Tom Rosenbauer.

    2. Good book. I used to have it, but gave it away.

  2. Hello Tom. Upon reading your fishing library post, I was struck by the poverty of the subject matter in that the only books you mentioned that might include some references to dry fly fishing and the fishing of stillwaters were Presentation, Fishing In Oregon, and the Western Streamside Guide.

    Its your fishing and you have every right to fish in any way you please but, since your blog is a beacon of Tenkara information and knowledge that many new comers will look to for advise and inspiration, the whole of all the fixed line truths there are out there should be made available to your audience. And one of the key facts is that presenting dry flies with fixed line rods with the line held up and off of the water is vastly superior to the heavy line presentations that Western fly fishing rod and reel technique requires with dry flies, which I believe is one of Tenkara's strongest suits.

    Also, not everyone has access to cold water streams and trout. Many T-anglers have only ponds/lakes and warm water fish to fish for. I got out a road map of Idaho/Montana to see how many lakes you have access to, but the scale was too big to show what there is in the way of small, high mountain lakes to fish in Idaho. Do you ever fish hike into high lakes? They are a unique and enjoyable challenge with fixed line tackle. Gary LaFontaine has been gone for many years now, but Fly Fishing the Mountain Lakes is still in print and can be bought, it is an excellent reference for all stillwater angling and would be a great addition to anyone's fly fishing library. At certain times of the year, on both lakes and streams, trout feed mainly on food at the surface. Some times as much as 95% of the time, which is an awful lot of opportunity to just cast aside.

    1. It's interesting that you mentioned Gary LaFontaine. I was just up in Montana this week, near the ponds and streams that I fished with him the 90's and was reminiscing of him. I miss him.

  3. Very cool post. I'm glad that books haven't been replaced by kindles and ipads yet.