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.

May 7th, 2001

Century End, A Fly Tying Journey
By Paul Ptalis
Published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc.

Reviewed by Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.

Century End, A Fly Tying Journey
I was told about the book Century End by Paul Ptalis before I ever touched a copy. A friend of mine who is a well-known salmon fly tier saw it and emailed me saying it was a necessity that I take a look at this new work. His enthusiasm was infectious, and when I got my own copy I saw just why.

Century End, A Fly Tying Journey is not your typical book of fly plates. This excursion into the world of the fully-dressed salmon fly deals with both classic and innovative flies, a combination which might at first seem incongruous. Ptalis' unique perspective on both makes them quite correlative, though, and it provides for a pleasant read for anyone who enjoys either genre.


The old classics are here: The Torrish, (shown above actual size from the book), Popham, Green Highlander, and others are present in their full glory. Authentic materials and antique hooks are assembled in as beautiful a manner as you could hope. The proportions are perfect, the lines are clean, the representations are accurate . . . what more could a reader ask?

99 Pure

How about some original patterns? They are here, too, and they are indeed unique. The first fly in the book, in fact, (the "99 Pure" shown above), is unlike most other fully-dressed flies I have ever seen. Many of Ptalis' own designs feature rare and exotic feathers such as Tragopan Pheasant, Pitta, Minivet, Ibis, Trogon, Jendaya, and many other feathers you aren't likely to find on the rack at your local shop. Ptalis also implements less rare, but still interesting feathers from Parakeets, Loris, and some under-tail coverts that are used to lovely and surprising effects.

Emerald Peacock

Most of the featured original patterns are full feather-wing flies, reflecting the recent explosion in popularity of this type of dressing. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a feather-wing fly uses an entire feather, or significant part thereof, as the wing element of the fly. These feathers are generally quills or of structures similar to a quill.) These are the sweetest of eye-candy for the fan of exotic birds, employing a wide spectrum of colours from the Macaw species as wild as a discotheque, to the subtly church-appropriate Elliot's Pheasant, with eyed Peacock Pheasant displaying both qualities in balance. The bodies of most of these feather-wings are veiled with feathers equally as interesting as the wings. One fly, The Emerald Peacock, (shown above) even incorporates no fewer than ten full feathers into the wing! (Five on each side.) For those of us who have a hard time shelling out the high cash amounts to purchase these gems, these photographs present a fair enough substitute.

Mr. Ptalis also treats our eyes to some original married-wing patterns, and again he presents them with a unique perspective, but to describe that perspective, I'll have to go back to the classic flies for a moment. In most books in which a tier displays a known pattern, the credits are given as, "Designed by ______, Tied by ________." The tier of these classics, though, does not represent himself in this manner, but instead calls attention to himself as an interpreter of the pattern. Thus, The Floodtide is credited, "Originated by Geo. M. Kelson, Interpreted by Paul Ptalis." This makes one conscious that Ptalis has approached the flies with more of an artistic point of view than the more common historical or piscatorial one. That is not to say that they are not accurate, because they are. It is simply to say that the desire is to show them primarily as the artistic displays that they are.

JK's Fault

This plays into the new flies, and explains some of their unusual qualities. There are colours here that are by no means standard in terms of Salmon Fly tying. Lavender, tangerine, flame, and myriad shades of the typical colours abound on Ptalis' pallete, and they are applied masterfully to his craft. All the married-wing flies exhibit certain colour patterns which determine the tone of the fly. Rather than simply putting a few quill slips of different colours on the wing, he arranges the slips in a particular order to achieve the desired effect. On two flies in particular, Eck's Engine and JK's Fault, (shown above) the bottom slips on the wing are yellow, and they gradually make their way through hues of yellows, pinks, oranges, and reds to a deep crimson top. Other flies proffer the same system less gradually, but no less beautifully from yellow to purple or orange to purple. The effect is impossible to describe, and must be seen to be believed.

Others still in his married-wing series settle on basic primary colours and the 'roygbiv' spectrum. These are colour studies in the simplest of shades arranged in an anything-but-simple montage.

Now, I am accustomed to looking at flies with a critical eye, but I will admit to being at a loss as an art critic. I love flies, but I know my limitations. Having said this, there are certain flies that I do not understand in terms of design and concept. Fortunately, this has not taken away any enjoyment from my perusals. One thing I do know about art is the intent to represent mood, and these flies do that. From the energetic Scarlet Queen to the somber Moon and Stars, the loud Evan's Fancy to the shy African Grey, the conservative Elliot's to the liberal Sun Conour, the stark 99 Pure to the robust Shewey's Marabou Blue, contrasts in design and emotion abound, each with a graceful touch that Ptalis calls "flow," that is the primary intent of his tying. (There is a significant amount of page space given at the beginning of the book to the topic of designing and tying flies with this system. These comments and explanations will be helpful to the new tier of Salmon flies as well as being highly useful food for thought to the old pro.)

Harmony, actual photo size

One particular fly that stands out to me as displaying a contrast in colours with a unity of aesthetics is the aptly-named "Harmony," (shown above). A wide range of colours and materials are all combined, and the finished result is one consistent flow from tip to head.

R.Harrison, actual size The book does not end with the flies, though. They simply take up pages 18-51! From page 52 on, there are descriptions and full-size images of hooks that are made for the art of Salmon Fly tying. Some are antique, some are modern reproductions and inventions. Rather than just being silhouettes, these are photographic images of hooks which allow you to see the actual form of the iron rather than just the shape of the elements. These final pages are a good resource, and fun to boot.

Summarily, this new book is simply stunning visually. The photography is extremely high-quality, and is printed on heavy stock, high gloss paper. Every page is its own display in a softbound gallery. The fly photos are quite large as well, each one taking up nearly half of its 8 1/2 x 11 page! Appropriately enough, this book found another fan in my house -- my two-year-old son. After I showed it to him, (he didn't get to touch it,) he regularly asked for the "big fly book," and oohed and aahed at the pictures, commenting all the while, "Red! Blue! Green!" A pretty good recommendation, I think.

This book is published by Frank Amato Publications, and sells for $19.95 at the Amato Website, or by calling 1-800-541-9498. Whether you tie flies, or just like looking at them, this book is for you! ~ Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.

Century End, A Fly Tying Journey
80 pages, Full-color photographs
8 1/2" x 11"
Softbound, $19.95 U.S
ISBN 1-57188-218-9
Published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112
Portland, OR. 97282

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