Individual taste in books varies as much as the favorite rod or fly.  With that in mind, we hope to review books and videos from the ever-growing fly fishing world, and share them with you.  Books will be the best of all worlds, new and old.  Many of the old books are now available in reprint, and the wisdom contained is timely today.  Others can be found in second-hand book stores, or by mail order dealers. As we find videos we feel are outstanding they will be included. Be assured, reviews are based on what we have actually read, and due to that fact, may not appear weekly.

September 1st, 2003

Production Fly Tying, 2nd Edition

By A.K. Best
Published by Pruett Publishing Company
Boulder, Colorada


Reviewed by Deanna Birkholm

When A.K. Best first wrote Production Fly Tying in 1989 he probably did not expect to do an updated version some ten years ago - nor did he expect his experitise would become the pattern other fly tiers would follow for years.

While most tiers will not produce the number of flies in their lifetime A.K. has produced in a single year, there is a great deal to be learned from tying the same pattern hundreds of times. He calls the new 2nd Edition, "A collection of Ideas, Notions, Hints, & Variations On the Techniques of Fly Tying. It's more than that.

New materials require new methods - methods which A.K. breaks down into managable pieces to make your tying easier and more fun. Old habits are hard to break - but many of the steps in fly tying are based on what and how early tyers did hundreds of years ago. We've come a long way because of the writings of A.K. Best.

Quoting him in the Afterword of the new Production Fly Tying, ". . .Fooling the fish is the first and most important consideration. Human opinions matter very little in this respect. From the fish's point of view, your fly is or is not edible. Presentation, the drift, proper action, and retrieve are all important, but if the fly isn't right to the fish, you lose.

I don't pretend to think I know all there is to know about tying flies. I just tie a lot of them (and for a lot of very nice people) and have tried to make the job even more fun than it is by its very nature. In approaching it that way every day, I constantly look for new techniques, materials, and ideas that just might make a small difference both in the fly's effectiveness and in its ease of tying. It seems like I learn something new every week - tiny things; tiny things do catch trout."

I asked A.K. if he would like me to feature any part of the book specifically (other than saying the color photography is wonderful) and he suggested we use his single hackle collar method. What follows is NOT the complete text, but I hope enough to give you a feel for what the author has to say. Please note, the photos for the most part are less than one half of the actual size in the book.

Single Hackle Collar

"What follows is how I hackle all my dry flies when only a single hackle color is required. Use only the longest hackles you have. I like to get a least seven turns of hackle on a size 16 dry fly - three turns behind the wing and four in front. One a size 18, I make five or six turns, with two turns behind the wing and three or four in front. On a size 20, I like only five turns, with two turns behind the wing and three in front. On size 14 flies, I like three turns behind the wing and five or six in front for a total of eight or nine total turns of hackle. I always double-hackle all size 12 dry flies: three turns of hackle behind the wing and five or six in front of the wing with the first hackle, and two turns behind and six or seven in front with the second hackle for a total of a minimum of sixteen turns of hackle. Remember, the size 12 hook is a lot of wire to float. Not only that, the larger flies are often fished in less-than-optimum conditions. In all cases (single or double hackle), I shoot for one-third hackle behind the wing and two-thirds in front of the wing.

I prefer a hackle feather about about as much web as shown in the photo 237" [below].


Unclipped hackle feather (bottom) and trimmed, read-to-use hackle (top)


1. Detail of hackle feather tie-in.

2. Proper hackle plies grip.


3. First turn of twisted hackle.

4. Second turn of hackle.


5. Third turn in the middle of the first two.

6. Crossing hackle forward beneath the fly.


7. Fourth turn (first turn in front of wings).

8. Second turn in front of wings.


9. Third turn in front of wings.

10. Completed hackle collar.


11. Finished Fly.

There of course is complete text instruction to go with the photos shown, but I wanted you to see how complete the color photos actually are.

It doesn't matter if you are new to fly tying - or an accomplished tyer, there is plenty to learn from the Second Edition. Highly recommended. ~ DLB

Production Fly Tying, 2nd Edition
A.K. Best
Soft cover 148 pages, all color
Size: 9" x 10 1/2"
Pruett Publishing Company
Boulder, Colorado
$39.95 US
ISBN 0-87108-929-7

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