Stu Farnham

April 15th, 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


Three by Doug Swisher and Carl Richards

Selective Trout (30th Anniversary Edition)
Hardcover - 240 pages 2nd Rev&ex edition (April 2001)
Dimensions (in inches): 0.87 x 11.17 x 8.81
The Lyons Press
ISBN: 1585740381

Emergers
Paperback (September 1997)
Dimensions (in inches): 0.38 x 10.95 x 8.50
The Lyons Press
ISBN: 1558216588

Tying the Swisher/Richards Flies
Paperback (February 1980)
Stackpole Books
ISBN: 0811720993
Out of Print

There was a revolution afoot in North American fly tying and fishing. If Ernest Schwiebert was the Thomas Paine of this revolution, with his 1957 book Matching the Hatch, Doug Swisher and Carl Richards were its Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In 1971 they published Selective Trout, a book which applied solid field entomology to fly fishing. The book was reissued in a revised and expanded 3oth anniversary edition in 2000.

Swisher and Richards present the core of their manifesto in chapter three, 'The Need for Realistic Imitation.' As human population and fishing pressure grew, catch and release came into common practice, and continued exploitation of the fisheries in the form of over harvesting took its toll, the techniques and flies which had been sufficient in the past were meeting with less and less success. While it is still true today that, on any given day, there is probably at least one trout who'll take whatever is offered, it was increasingly hard to take fish using the lure and attractor patterns of the past.

Other early chapters describe procedures for collecting, identifying, and photographing aquatic insects. Chapter four applies the observations made using these procedures to fly tying, and introduces the now-familiar no hackle and paradun patterns. Perhaps more important overall was the emphasis placed on emerger, stillborn (cripple), and spinner forms.

There's a large portion of the book dedicated to a seasonal presentation of mayfly species and their imitation, and chapters on caddis flies and terrestrials. They then go on to develop the concept of 'super hatches,' the handful of hatches which dominate in any given part of the country, and suggest imitations of each. There's a short chapter on night fishing (of little interest to me because it is prohibited here in Oregon), and appendices presenting keys to identification of mayflies and caddis flies for the would-be entomologists among us.

While Selective Trout described a group of new patterns, it did not include detailed tying instructions. These were presented in the 1977 book Tying the Swisher/Richards Flies (originally printed by P.Y. Dylan & Co., and reissued by Stackpole Books in 1980). This book has detailed instructions on tying no-hackles, paradrakes, spinners, wiggle nymphs, and more, and features flies tied by the authors and by Rene Harrop. The thing that strikes me as I look at my copy of the 1977 edition is how lucky we are today to have instruction books like those by Skip Morris, Randall Kaufmann, Jim Schollmeyer and Ted Leeson, and others. The black and white photographs in this book are murky and the detail is hard to see. Nonetheless, the accompanying text is detailed and useful, and this book makes a good companion to Selective Trout for the fly tier.

In their 1991 book Emergers, Swisher and Richards focus in on what is probably the most vulnerable stage of the aquatic insects' life cycle. Wonderful photographs (mostly black and white, unfortunately) show the emergence of various mayflies and caddis. There are chapters which describe behavioral drift and the factors effecting successful emergence. I know from first hand experience that emergers fish better than duns for baetis hatches that occur in cold, damp weather because the insects have a harder time successfully escaping the surface film.

An extensive section of patterns includes what may be the first extensive treatment of the use of CDC (call 'duck butt' in this book) in North American fly angling literature. The book closes with a chapter on surface fishing techniques which will be familiar to anyone who has read Swisher's & Richard's Fly Fishing Strategy or seen the wonderful series of videos Doug made with Scientific Anglers.

I can't close a discussion of these books without mentioning the artwork contributed by Dave Whitlock. His fine pen and ink work removes distracting detail while keeping a realistic and lifelike appearance. His fly renderings, especially the colored versions in Selective Trout are sufficiently clear and detailed to tie from. ~ 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. 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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