Stu Farnham

May 19th, 2003

A Fly Fisher's Library
By Stu Farnham

The Internet is a powerful resource. It provides us instant access to information, and brings us together via email, bulletin boards, chat rooms, and instant messaging. FAOL is a wonderful example of the Internet at its best. The Internet, however, will never replace the printed page.

I've loved books and fishing since my youngest years, although I did not start fly fishing until 1993. This column will give me an opportunity to share reviews of some of my favorite fly fishing and tying books (and some that are not such favorites) with my friends here at FAOL. My library reflects my tastes and interests, and so will this column. It will be heavily slanted towards cold water fishing and tying for trout and steelhead, and won't touch much on areas of which I know little, such as warm or salt water fishing.

I hope that these reviews will motivate some of you to pick up a good book, on this or any subject, and read. ~ Stu Farnham

Handbook of Western Fly Fishing

Handbook of Western Fly Fishing
by Paul B. Downing
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Majestic Press; 1st edition (January 1, 2001)
ISBN: 0962531162

I approached reading the Handbook of Western Fly Fishing with some skepticism. Do we really need another book covering the basics of fly-fishing the Western US? How much more was there to be written about? Was there a point of view that had not already been covered several times by better known fishing writers?

Paul B. Downing's book was a pleasant surprise. Although unknown in fly-fishing literature, Downing has written several books on opal gemstones. His prior experience as an author shows. The Handbook is an easy read, clear and well written.

Downing opens the book with a series of vignettes from his history of fishing in the West. The wide variation in climate and terrain in the West give rise to distinct seasonal opportunities, and each of the five western fishing seasons (pre-runoff, runoff, summer, fall, and winter) are described.

One of the joys of fly-fishing is that it can be as simple or as complicated as one chooses to make it. Paul chooses a middle path, recommending a 8.5 to 9 foot, 5 weight rod, a dozen flies, and a couple of two fly rigs. The simple sufficiency of his approach is enough to get a novice on the water with a minimum of time and expense.

Succeeding chapters detail the various types of fishing typically experienced in the west: pocket water, nymphing, streamer fishing, float fishing, sight fishing, and fishing on the edges of streams and in lakes and ponds. There is also a chapter devoted to fishing the tiny midges that hatch year-round. While most of the book to this point has dealt with trout fishing, there is also a short chapter on fly-fishing for pike.

The west is home to the majority of the destination fly-fishing waters in the US. Downing has advice on planning a trip and hiring a guide. The balance of the book breaks down western fishing by state, given an overview of the opportunities, as well as helpful lists of information sources and fly shops (note: the lists of shops are far from comprehensive and may not be current.)

All in all, this book was a pleasant surprise. Despite having left my novice days behind by more years than I care to count, the Handbook held my interest throughout, and even taught me a couple of things. The novice western fly fisher, or the easterner looking to plan a trip to the west, will find this book useful and informative. ~ Stu Farnham

About Stu

Stu tying Stu Farnham is a New Englander by birth, who was transplanted to and put down roots in Oregon in the early 1990s, now residing in the Seattle area. A software engineering manager by vocation, he can be found in his spare time chasing trout and steelhead in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest, chasing his four Gordon Setters (who in turn are chasing chukar), tying flies, reading, or working on his website. Colleen, his long suffering wife of 28 years, is a professionally trained personal chef.

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