Stu Farnham

October 21st, 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


Mastering the Spring Creeks: A Fly Angler's Guide

Mastering the Spring Creeks: A Fly Angler's Guide by John Shewey
Softcover: 144 pages; May 1995
Publisher: Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 1571880003

John Shewey is a fly fisherman, fly tier, bird hunter, and writer from Salem, Oregon. John is probably best known for some of his steelhead patterns, including the Bedsprings Spey and the Spawning Purple. He's written books on fly fishing for steelhead, spey and dee flies, as well as fly fishing and wingshooting guides for states in the Pacific Northwest. John also operates a small-scale business supplying high quality materials to tiers of salmon and steelhead flies.

I seldom hear mention of his book, Mastering the Spring Creeks. It's unfortunate that this book is so little known, because it is a good one. Many trout fly fishers consider spring creeks to represent the epitome of their sport. Smooth flowing, clear waters, abundant hatches, and, in many cases, heavy fishing pressure result in highly selective fish populations. Tippets must be long and fine, flies must match the hatch closely (although a guide from Dan Bailey's swears that one can do well by fishing a Chernobyl Ant when fish on Armstrong's Spring Creek get very picky), and presentations must be perfect. These waters are the North American analogue to the fabled chalk streams of England.

Author John Shewey

Sheweys' may be the only book specifically written to address the challenges of this sort of fishing. The book is divided into three chapters; the sections in each chapter are separated by pages from what John calls his spring creek diary, each recounting an experience from a particular day on a Western spring creek.

The first chapter of the book covers presentation. I make no secret of belonging to the school that holds that presentation dominates all other considerations in its importance to successful fly fishing for trout. The chapter begins with a section dealing with the sometimes neglected topics of approach and positioning. My belief is you often get only one drift over or past a spring creek trout. Getting into position to make that presentation without spooking the fish is critical.

Casting and line management are also important, and the second section covers these in detail. Since the creeks that John covers are located in the West, he also includes information on dealing with the wind. Three of the most famous U.S. creeks - Armstrong's, DePuy's, and Nelson's -- are located at the North end of Paradise Valley outside of Livingston, Montana, where the winds rush up the Yellowstone and are funneled through a notch in the mountains. It's a rare day when you don't have to contend with wind there, especially on a summer afternoon.

The third section introduces another important topic, fly selection, and provides a nice segue into chapter two, which covers spring creek trout foods and the flies which imitate them. There are sections on all the important insect groups, including discussions of the major hatches and patterns to imitate each. There is also a separate section on nymphing techniques for spring creeks.

The final part of the book is for winter daydreaming and trip planning. Here John talks about the best known Western spring creeks: the Henry's Fork; Silver Creek; Hat Creek and the Fall River in California; the Williamson and Metolius Rivers in Oregon; and Washington state's Rocky Ford. Along with descriptions of each fishery are hatch charts broken out by season.

The book is accompanied by clear, detailed drawings illustrating key points from the text, as well as wonderful color photos of spring creek waters and insects. There are also color photo sequences illustrating much of the material in the presentation chapter.

My one complaint about the book is with the fly photographs. While these are large and crisply detailed, the color control, at least my copy of the book, is poor, and the flies in each photo tend to be somewhat monochromatic.

If you love the challenge of spring creek fishing, I strongly urge you to find a copy of this 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.

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