February 21, 2017

My Library of Fly Fishing Books -- part II

In my last post, I showed a few of the fly fishing instruction books that have sentimental value to me. In this post I'll show you a few of the fly tying reference books that I have used over the years.

Fly tying books seem to be dinosaurs now days. With the internet, and particularly Youtube, books seem old and antiquated. After all, why read a book on tying flies when you can watch Davie McPhail or Fly Fish Food tie the fly you're interested in? Here's why -- books are great references to have on hand and to be poured over year after year. Hundreds, even thousands of flies are readily available at your finger tips within reference books, with just a turn of the page. Also, you don't need electricity or an internet connection to look at a book. Books are still very relevant.

I used to have a lot of fly tying books; I have gotten rid of most of them as I have tried to debulk my life.

Here are a few of the books that I have used over the years to give me ideas, learn new techniques, and to find new patterns.

Professional Fly Tying and Spinning Lure Making Manual
George Leonard Herter
Copyright 1941. (my revised copy is copyright 1969)

This is the first fly tying book that I ever received. My version is paperback, but I have my Grandfather's hardback edition from years before I was born.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I started tying flies in the early 1970's after taking a fly tying class in junior high school. I enjoyed tying so much, and must have shown some degree of proficiency, that my parents bought me private fly tying lessons with a man in my home town. I'd visit his home once every few weeks to learn new fly patterns and techniques. I was given home work and I practiced tying every day, just like I did with piano lessons.

About the time I started tying lessons I received this book. I'm sure I didn't buy it (I was a kid and had no money), but I don't remember where I got it. Anyway, it is the book I used as a reference. It is, by todays standards, a pretty poor tying reference, but it does contain much historical information regarding famous patterns that I used to tie. Most of those patterns are not used today, BTW.

As a book it is of little monetary value. However, as a memento of my childhood, it is priceless.

Flies of the Northwest
Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club
Frank Amato Publications
Copyright 1986

I bought this book as a reference after I moved to Portland, OR for medical residency. I started tying more frequently and I desired a book of local patterns. This book is simple in design, but it's valuable for its information. It is purely a reference book; not elaborating on or showing any fly tying techniques. I learned to tie many patterns and they took a lot of trout; like Runje's Turd and Blood Sucker. Most of the patterns are simple and uncomplicated but they catch fish.

It's a simple book, but I'm a simple guy.

Fly Patterns of Umpqua Feather Merchants
Randall Kaufman
Western Fisherman's Press
Copyright 1995

I bought this reference book when I started tying flies commercially. I tied for many fly shops around the west, before they contracted their flies from Asia. It, like the previous book I outlined, is purely a reference book; there are no tying techniques shown. The book contains many of the flies designed by famous fly fisherman I have had the privilege to meet (and sometimes fish with) like Gary LaFontaine, Jim Teeny, and Randall Kaufmann.

Wet Flies
Dave Hughes
Stackpole Books
Copyright 1995

Of all the fly fishing authors out there, I have more books by Dave Hughes than any other. He has been around quite a while and has been very prolific is his writing. In short, he and his books have stood the test of time. His flies and techniques are not a flash in the pan, but time tested and fish approved.

I enjoy his books immensely; they being both entertaining and informative. I've never met him (I had a chance to hear his speak in Portland, OR a few decades ago, but I got delayed at the hospital), but I have communicated with him via email. He has been both kind and generous with his information.

Wet Flies is more than just a fly tying reference book. Like most of Dave Hughes' books, it contains information regarding the history of certain flies, how to tie them, and how to fish them. Since I fish almost exclusively with subsurface flies (my apologies to K. Klavon), I value this book as one of the most important books in my library.

Trout Flies: The Tier's Reference
Dave Hughes
Stackpole Books
Copyright 1999

Here is another book by Dave Hughes -- I told you I like his writing. It is a large table reference book, coming in at 470 pages. It outlines patterns, materials and techniques. Unlike other of Hughes' books it doesn't spend much time on fishing anecdotes or fishing techniques. This book is just a reference book.

What I like about this book is that it shows many of the flies from years gone by. Nowadays it seems that flies must be fancy and difficult to tie to be popular. All of the flies in Trout Flies can be easily mastered by the vast majority of people.  I like new generation flies as much as any one, but what really pleases me are patterns that use simple materials, tied with simple techniques and fished in a simple way.

So there they are, a few tying books that mean a lot to me. I must admit that I don't open them up very often, but they sit there, quietly waiting on the shelf of my library to be opened and to participate in my reminiscing of days gone by. Tying instructions and videos on the internet are easy to find and wonderful to watch, but I like books.


  1. Thanks for your post. I also own Dave Hughes' Trout Flies: The Tier's Reference and think it's a great book. I highlight recommend it to anyone looking for simple and effective patters. Dave Hughes also has a book called Essential Trout Flies. It's a smaller book featuring 31 patters. Most of the flies in the book are staples here in Utah. It's one I keep in my fly tying box and use most frequently.

  2. I am also a Big fan of Dave Hughes, and I really love the 2ND Edition of Trout From Small Streams because it includes a chapter on Tenkara, which Dave may have actually been fishing even longer than Yvon Chouinard has.

    No apology is required on my account, Tom. Fish any way you please - its your fishing. But here is a list of 10 books on fly-fishing and/or fly tying that have been real game changing experiences for me. Books that brought into question what I had been doing in my tying and angling and brought about far better angling results than I had ever been able to experience before, for you or anyone else who may be interested.

    1. Designing Trout Flies, by Gary A. Borger

    2. Tenkara, Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing, by Kevin C. Keller, MD, with Misako Ishimura

    3. How Fish Work, Fish Biology & Angling, by Thomas J. Sholseth, DVM, MPVM

    4. The New Scientific Angling, Trout and Ultraviolet Vision, by Reed F. Curry

    5. Fly Fishing Soft-Hackles, Nymphs, Emergers, and Dry Flies, by Allen McGee

    6. Simple Flies, 52 Easy-To-Tie Patterns That Catch Fish, by Morgan Lyle

    7. What Trout Want, The Educated Trout And Other Myths, by Bob Wyatt

    8. Fly Fishing The Mountain Lakes, by Gary LaFontaine

    9. The Dry Fly, New Angles, by Gary LaFontaine

    10. Fly Patterns For Stillwaters, A Study Of Trout, Entomology And Tying, by Philip Rowley

  3. Tom, another nice collection. As much as I like tying and fishing Wet Flies and Soft Hackles, I should probably have Dave Hughes' book "Wet Flies". A book that I've found very useful, is A.K. Best's "Production Fly Tying". It really sharpened my techniques at the vice.

  4. Tom,
    I have many of the same books. I too have poured over the Oregon Fishing Guide. It was in Oregon that I became an avid fly fisherman. I also tied commercially in the 70's for several years. I also had the fortune to fish with Gary LaFontaine several times as well as Gary Borger when I lived in Wisconsin. I fished with Randell Kaufmann in Central Oregon, and spent lots of money at his Fly Shop in Tigard. It seems our fishing lives have been on a parallel progression. I wish I had discovered Tenkara and fixed line fishing sooner. Thanks for your blog, I have learned a lot.

  5. In What Trout Want, Bob Wyatt criticizes Gary LaFontaine's Sparkle Pupa Caddis patterns as there were no entomological studies in Europe that turned up any evidence of caddis pupa ascending with gas inflated sheaths. He did not question the effectiveness of the patterns in catching fish, but he said that that was due to attraction rather than imitation. The way I see it, who cares as long as the things catch fish?

    In Ralph Cutter's book Fish Food (and here http://www.flyline.com/tips_trivia/all_that_glitters/ ) there is a picture of a caddis pupa inside of the gas filled sheath ascending. Seeing is believing. You will have to scroll down a ways and its a vertical photo on the right margin, with a caption beneath.

  6. Tom,
    I also had the Herter's Fly Tying Manual. It came with the Herter's Fly Tying kit which I received for Christmas back in 1969. I passed it on a number of years ago to a younger up & coming tier. My collection of books and materials had expanded over the years to huge proportions and then I retired and we sold our house. Now I try to rely on about 1/2 dozen patterns and fish Tenkara 80% of the time. I still catch plenty fish and enjoy a simpler life.

  7. I loved the one title, "Barr Flies"... Just made me chuckle out loud.

  8. All this preoccupation with and devotion to the tying of flies and the books about it has little to do with the actual catching of small stream trout. If you can make your approach and cast with out scaring the fish you are casting to, and present your fly pattern so what the fish sees is a fly coming to it as the naturals would, the trout are more than willing to take just about any fly pattern you care to use, as long as it is in the size range of the food forms they are accustomed to eating. This is because small stream trout seldom (if ever) get enough to eat to become too choosy, let alone selective in the sterile environments where they live.

    For sure there will be times when some patterns will work better than others, but very seldom to the point that you have to have "THE RIGHT FLY" in order to catch fish. And while fishing dry flies is some what more demanding from the standpoint of the avoidance of drag (which will send most trout that see a fly moving faster or slower than the water around it is moving running for the rocks, as well as the fish that see them running, sending a chain reaction up the stream) than subsurface fly patterns are. Whereas a slight amount of drag with wet flies and soft-hackles actually increases their attractiveness to the trout by activating the hackle, with the movement giving the impression of life to your fly and its presentation.

    Stillwater angling demands on fly patterns and the angler are much more demanding than in stream fishing, because you do not have the stream current whisking the trout's food away from it before it is lost and gone for ever and providing motion to the fly. Lake fish have an unlimited amount of time to inspect what they intend to eat, and the angler is usually the one required to supply the movement to the fly because of the stillness of the water in lakes and ponds. Streams are conveyors of food to the more or less stationary fish. In lakes the fish move in search of food because the water is not flowing, so the the first and most basic indicator of life in stillwater is the movement of the fly and the fly tying materials it is tied with. Therefore, stillwater angling is inherently more difficult and demanding than stream fishing is in my view, and I find more to hold my interest in lake fishing than I do in stream fishing. (But they are both special places to fish and I greatly enjoy fishing both.) Plus you have many more food forms for the trout to eat in stillwater that do not live in streams. Just my 2 cents.


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