Stu Farnham

December 9th, 2002

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


Good Flies: Favorite Trout Patterns and How They Got That Way

Good Flies:
Favorite Trout Patterns and How They Got That Way
by John Gierach
Hardcover: 179 pages
Publisher: The Lyons Press
ISBN: 1585741396; (November 2000)

OK, I'm probably the only fly fisher in North America who does not rate John Gierach among my favorite writers. It's not that I dislike his work; most of it just doesn't do much for me. Besides, as anyone who reads this column regularly knows, I tend more towards technical books on fly tying and on fishing technique than I do "soft" books of fishing experiences and anecdotes. Even John's "hard" books - Fishing Bamboo and Fly Fishing Small Streams - did not really get me excited. Good Flies, however, is another matter. It's written from the point of view of a fishing fly tier, a fly-tying pragmatist, describing the flies that work for Gierach, and his methods for tying and fishing them.

author The introduction presents some of Gierach's history as a tier, and his philosophy of tying. "I prefer flies that are more or less traditional, that don't sue rare, exotic, endangered, or unusually expensive materials, and that are fairly easy for me to tie well in fishable numbers. On the other hand, I'll break any or all of those rules for a pattern that really catches fish."

The chapter on materials, tools, and hooks isn't the usual rehash of the basics. Instead, Gierach talks about his preference for natural materials and hen hackle wings (the latter shared with his friend A.K. Best, who, as usual, turns up throughout the book). Another thing Gierach has in common with Best is a preference for turkey T-base feathers for wings and posts. John goes on to talk about the various feathers and feather parts he uses in tying, his preference for rabbit fur dubbing, and quill and biot bodies. Hooks: three or four styles cover most of Gierach's needs, with another three or four for specialized use. The tools section provides an overview of the basic set that Gierach uses. No real revelations here.

The remainder of the book covers Gierach's favorite patterns (few, if any, original with him) to imitate various categories of fish food: small, medium, and large mayflies as well as mayfly spinners; midges, caddis, damsels, and hoppers; nymphs; and streamers. Each chapter has textual descriptions of the flies, with all of the recipes gathered together at the end of the chapter. Barry Glickman's black and white drawings accompany the text.

Among the patterns that have made their way from this book to my fly box are the duck shoulder version of the Swisher/Richards no hackle, and a soft hackle Gierach calls the Palm Emerger; the hare's ear parachute; the biot green drake parachute, with a pair of hen hackles forming the post; and Ken Iwamasa's Tarcher nymph. Probably my favorite idea out of this book is the use of appropriately colored Clousers to imitate crayfish. The hook-up carriage of this fly is ideal for bumping along the bottom in a very crayfishy manner without snagging.

This isn't the most complete book of patterns ever published. It won't teach you a lot about tying technique. Most, if not all, of the flies described were developed by someone else and have been described somewhere else. I don't reach for it often as a reference. But it's a quick, enjoyable read and you'll probably pick up a few new patterns and some tips for tying and fishing them. ~ 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.

Previous Stu Farnham Book Columns
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