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.

April 8th, 2002

Advanced Fly Tying: The Proven Methods and Techniques of a Master Professional Fly Tyer

By A.K. Best
Published by The Lyons Press


Reviewed by Stu Farnham

A.K. Best's latest book was one of the most anticipated books on fly tying to come out in recent years. The anticipation was due in part to A.K.'s reputation, and in part to delays in publication when the publisher, Lyons Press, was acquired by Globe Pequot. Originally expected in November 2001, the book finally made its way to release and to my collection in March 2002.

Advanced Fly Tying: A.K. was first introduced to most of us via the writing of John Gierach, who is a close friend of A.K.'s and who contributed the introduction to this volume and to A.K.'s other books. A.K.'s previous books include Production Fly Tying (1989), Dyeing and Bleaching Natural Fly-Tying Materials (1993), and A.K.'s Fly Box (1996).

Fly tying is a craft based in its minutiae, and A.K. has accumulated a wealth of detailed experience which he shares in these books. Refreshingly, he is not afraid to admit to subjectivity, discussing his likes and dislikes, and acknowledging that, while these books reflect his methods and preferences, other valid points of view exist.

The latest volume covers topics not normally discussed in fly tying books. The first chapter covers vise and tool care, with emphasis on a periodic tune up for your vise. While the instructions are specific to a draw collet style of vise, you can readily adapt them for your own vise of choice. Chapter two speaks specifically, although briefly, about the uses and virtues of rotary vises, as well as making the transition to rotary tying. Like every other change, this one takes a little while to get through, but, in A.K.'s opinion (and mine) is worth the effort.

Next come techniques for saving time - not for tying fast, but rather for tying efficiently. There are almost 30 different tips, ranging from keeping your scissors in hand through organization of materials and ergonomics of your work area to, in his final recommendation, tying at least one fly every day.

A.K.'s Tying Desk

The fourth chapter covers hand position, a topic I have seldom seen addressed, presenting some general principles and providing photographs of correct hand position when applying various materials.

Despite the increasing popularity of hackle-less designs and the increasing cost of quality hackle, hackle and hackling techniques remain fundamental to our craft. There are three chapters on the subject: 'Necks or Saddles' provides answers for a question that is often asked by novice and intermediate tiers. 'Hackle Sizing' gives A.K.'s views on this topic, which don't quite fit conventional wisdom, and 'Avoiding Cone Shaped Hackle Collars' covers his method for hackling dry flies, which is valuable to those who have not read his earlier books.

Following a chapter on tying heads (an often neglected but vital topic) comes another gem. 'Tying Yourself Out of Trouble' offers a collection of hints, tips, and tricks for recovering from those mini-disasters which we all encounter halfway through tying a fly: broken thread, broken hackle stems, cracked quills, and more.

The longest chapter in the book, at 64 pages, is a collection of fly patterns, tying techniques, and fishing advice called 'Delicate Flies for Skinny Water.' A.K. is a tier who believes that the devil is in the details, and his variations on typical patterns (such as his protruding wing tips for beetles) provide interesting insights. All other the patterns are accompanied by clear, detailed color photographs.

Chapters on spun deer hair on small hooks, indestructible biot bodies, several chapters on specific favorite patterns, and advice on field modifications to your flies and the contents of a traveler's tying kit round out the book.

All in all, this is another fine effort, well written, clear, and detailed. Whether you agree with A.K.'s preferences, you'll find his point of view interesting and undoubtedly learn a few tricks that will make you a better tier.

My only complaint is that this, at $40 retail, is a rather slim volume, and shares a lot with A.K.'s previous tying books. All three could have been combined into a single volume, with less repetition that would make a heck of a manual for advanced tiers. However, if he did that, we wouldn't have had the delightful anticipation of the publication of the next installment. ~ SF

Advanced Fly Tying: The Proven Methods and Techniques of a Master Professional Fly Tyer
234 pages
7" x 9"
Hardcover $40.00 U.S.
ISBN 1-58574-339-9
Published by The Lyons Press

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