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Like biscuits and gravy, or bourbon and ice, fly fishing and writing always seem to go together. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction, chances are you’re going to find the two together. That’s why I’ve compiled some of the best fly fishing books.
Below, I cover several different types of books for the die-hard fly angler. These books range from collections of essays to instructional. There’s something below for every level of reader and angler.
The Best Fly Fishing Books
Take a look at the following books. Chances are there’s going to be at least one on this list that’s either going to help you become a better angler or at least entertain you.
1. History of Fly Fishing in Fifty Flies
- Author: Ian Whitelaw
- Length: 224
The History of Fly Fishing in Fifty Flies tells the story of the two-thousand-year-old sport named fly fishing. It showcases some of the first popular flies, from the hook that held just a feather to modern flies and high tech materials.
The book takes 50 flies from history and shows their development over time and how they helped advance fly fishing. It also shows the spread of the sport in Europe and how it moved overseas.
It has more than just history, though. It has profiles of fly fishing influencers, tying tips, as well as photos and illustrations of the flies shown, while also explaining the techniques on how to fish them.
It’s a great book to leave on a coffee table to bring on conversation and find the other fly fishing nerd in the room. On top of being a centerpiece, it’s a great wealth of knowledge, something all fly anglers should own.
2. The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing
- Authors: Kirk Deeter & Charlie Meyers
- Length: 224
The object of The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing book is to help pull back the curtain on fly fishing, to show that it’s not all wizardry and black magic — although sometimes it may kind of feel that way.
Everything in this book is simple and easy to learn. It gives simple lessons on casting, presentation, reading water, and selecting your flies.
Essentially, this is a book about mastering the basics of the sport, something a novice needs to know and something the advanced angler should probably freshen up on.
The final portion of the book contains miscellaneous aspects, which are all sorts of items an angler should know but don’t fall into one category.
You’ll learn about wading, choosing the right gear to bring with you on the water, as well as how to properly fight a fish on light tippet and leader. It’s an essential book that all fly anglers should own if they want to improve their skills.
3. The Bug Book, A Fly Fishers Guide to Trout Stream Insects
- Author: Paul Weamer
- Length: 152
For those of you that love to learn all the different insects and study scientific names, The Bug Book, A Fly Fishers Guide to Trout Stream Insects is the book for you. It’s the complete guide to aquatic entomology for fly anglers. It features all kinds of great information.
You’ll find hatch charts, fly pattern recommendations, and different fishing strategies. This is a great book for someone new to the subject or someone who’s looking for a deeper understanding of the food trout eat.
As someone who’s been fly fishing for several years now, I felt the need to pick up this book in order to understand what I’m throwing. Too often I felt overwhelmed or unsure of my fly choices.
Finally, there’s an up-to-date and modern hatch guide, something that anglers can look over before hitting a stream to have confidence in what they’re throwing. This is half the battle anyway.
The book will not only teach when to throw certain flies, but also how to recognize insects in the water, helping you understand which flies match those insects.
4. Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying
- Author: Charlie Craven
- Pages: 292
Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying book is like sitting in a college classroom listening to your favorite professor explain your favorite topic. This book covers all of the fly tying fundamentals, including tools, materials, and techniques needed to tie flies.
There are over 1,000 photos in this book that Craven uses to show how to tie classics such as the Wooly Bugger, Royal Wulff, Admas, Hares Ear, the RS2, and Copper John. His writing is easy and clear, so even tying newbies can gain info.
This book is the quintessential sight guide for basic flies. It describes 17 different flies that an angler and tier should know how to use.
This book is ideal for a novice or intermediate angler looking to either begin or take the next step in tying flies. Or, it could be great for the so-called expert looking to perfect their flies and take it to the next level. It’s truly a book for all levels of fly angler.
5. The Longest Silence
- Author: Thomas McGuane
- Pages: 344
The Longest Silence is not really an instructional text the way the previous products are. These are essays compiled by McGuane over a thirty-year period. They showcase his triumphs and trials on the water with a fly rod in hand.
While catching fish from trout to salmon, to striped bass, tarpon, and permit, McGaune gives great clarity to each of his stories, putting the reader right there next to him, feeling the spray of the saltwater or the power of the river.
There are thirty-three essays in this book, all set in a wide range of spots. You’ll find him in San Francisco, Key West, Montana, Ireland, Argentina, and even Russia, fishing with his friends, his son, or solo.
McGaune has more experience than most when it comes to the outdoors, and it’s highlighted in this book. It shows the kind of adventure that can be had when you dedicate your life to this sport. It’s a must-read for all fly anglers or even just those that enjoy a good adventure story.
What Makes the Best Fly Fishing Books Worth Reading?
Below, I’m going to go into more depth on what makes a great fly fishing book. I’m going to cover the importance of clarity, information, and entertainment, and yes I’m even going to talk about the importance of pictures.
Whether an author can convey their point in a clear and concise manner might be the most important part of writing. Someone could be writing about total garbage, but if it’s written clearly then you can understand how terrible it is and find something else.
The same goes for writing helpful information and putting it in a clear way. If you’re trying to show me how to tie Copper John in some roundabout way, then chances are I’m going to wind up tying something that’s entirely different.
There are a lot of books out there about fly fishing. Some are catch-all books that can teach you everything you need to know, while others are more niche. The catch-alls are great for beginners, while niche works for advanced lessons.
Before you go out and spend $20 on the book, take some time to think about what you want to learn about the sport. Do you want an overview? Or do you want to learn how to Euro Nymph? If you want to Euro Nymph, then go for the book that covers it head to toe, not the overview with only a few pages on the subject.
You’ll find many different types of books on fly fishing. Some are meant to educational while others tell stories or about previous experiences. No matter what, though, they should be entertaining in some way.
Explaining how to read a river is important, but it should be done in a way that draws in the reader. This works the same way with essays and nonfiction work.
Pictures are great in fly fishing books not because fly anglers have difficulty reading, but because there are many moving pieces in this sport. It’s great if a picture can help you learn how to read a river and understand which way the current is flowing.
Or, a picture can show you how to tie a fly properly. Words can be great and very descriptive, but when you can pair words with pictures, then you have something a reader can fully enjoy.
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There are many great books on fly fishing, both fiction and non-fiction. You have the ability to learn a brand-new skill by ordering one online, or putting yourself someplace new while catching a species of fish you could only dream of.
So, if there’s a new skill you’re looking to add to your metaphorical fly fishing toolbox, then check out a good informational book and apply it out on the river. Or, find a book that sucks you in and puts you right next to the angler fighting the big fish on a light leader.
After a full day of fishing, there’s nothing better than coming home and reading about fishing.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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