Stu Farnham

February 3rd, 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


Trout from Small Streams

Cover Trout from Small Streams
By Dave Hughes
Hardcover: 167 pages
Publisher: Stackpole Books;(January 2003)
ISBN: 0811700313

I think I've mentioned once or twice that Dave Hughes is a favorite author of mine. To be honest, I've been disappointed with Dave's last few books, as they were either updates to classics (Western Streamside Guide), condensed versions of prior books (Essential Trout Flies), or simply not up to the standard I'd come to expect from Hughes over the years (Matching Mayflies). Happily, Trout from Small Streams marks Dave's return to top form. In this book Dave writes on a topic which is clearly special to him, in his usual direct and almost conversational style.

Trout from Small Streams is not a book filled with breakthrough techniques and innovative thinking. Instead, it is a book about specialization, about the nuances and variations involved in fishing small water.

Author Dave Hughes Hughes grew up on the coast of my adopted home state of Oregon, and, as a boy, fished the small streams that plunge from the West slopes of Oregon's coast range into the bays and estuaries of the Pacific coast. These are not the destination streams we read about in fly fishing magazines, and they do not hold trophy trout. This does not mean they are without a powerful attraction, as they offer intimacy, isolation, and the opportunity to fish for the native trout of the Pacific Northwest in their native streams. Even today a topographic map, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to hike a few miles from the road can lead you to such fishing.

Small favorite Oregon stream

Small being a relative term, Hughes starts by defining what he means when he speaks of a small stream. "A small stream," Dave says, "is a short cast across where the stream is at its widest." Small streams come in the same variety of configurations as larger rivers, shaped by the topography and geology of the terrain through which they flow, and ranging from plunging mountain brooks to meandering meadow creeks.

After describing how the streams he fished on as a boy influenced how he fishes and the kind of fishing he most enjoys, Hughes describes the small stream tackle he's settled on over the years: a short, fast rod (preferably but not necessarily bamboo), a canvas belt pack, and a single box of flies chosen for their versatility. Waders? Dave confesses to a preference for felt-soled hippers.

Fishing small streams can present a number of technical challenges. Space for a backcast is often limited. Relatively shallow, clear water places extra demands for stealth, and limits your choice of approach. Hughes relates his findings in a chapter titled The Learning Curve.

While one can generally catch small stream fish using the same techniques that work on bigger water, Hughes' experience has taught him a set of presentations that are adapted to increase success on small streams. There are chapters on dry fly and streamer techniques. The chapter on wet flies refers back to Hughes' class work on that subject. Along with the chapter on fishing beaver ponds, this was the high point of the book. ~ 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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