Stu Farnham

December 30th, 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


Two Steelhead Tying Books

Steelhead Fly Tying Guide
By H. Kent Helvie
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Frank Amato Publications, (September 1994)
ISBN: 1878175858

Flies for Steelhead (Fishing Flies of North America)
By Dick Stewart, Farrow Allen
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: The Lyons Press, (March 1992)
ISBN: 0936644095

Recently someone in the FAOL Chat Room asked me to recommend a book on tying flies for steelhead. These two, plus John Shewey's Spey Flies & Dee Flies (which I reviewed earlier this year), were my recommendations.

Kent Helvie's Steelhead Fly Tying Guide is part instruction and part pattern book. Kent reviews the history of fly fishing for Pacific steelhead, starting on the Eel River in California in the 1890s, through Zane Grey's time on Oregon's Rogue and North Umpqua in the 1920s, the popularization of spey flies for steelhead by Syd Glasso and Dick Wentworth, and General Noel Money and Roderick Haig Brown in British Columbia.

Early chapters cover style, materials, and hooks, before Helvie delves into instruction and patterns. The latter part of the book divides into chapters on wet flies, spey flies, imitators, and dry flies. Each of these chapters starts with detailed tying instructions for several patterns of each type. The section on wet flies demonstrates tying the Black Prince and Cummings Special, both hair wing flies, followed by a strip wing fly, the Summer Twilight II.

The rest of each chapter comprises pattern recipes and beautiful color plates illustrating the patterns. Mark Kirchner's photographs are beautiful, clear, and of a usable size. My only complaint is that the pattern recipes are not adjacent to the color plates, requiring the reader to flip back and forth to view both.

If you are looking for a single book to introduce you to tying flies for steelhead, this would be an excellent place to start.

Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen produced the wonderful series Fishing Flies of North America in the early to mid 1990s. That series includes Flies for Trout (reviewed here in an earlier column), Flies for Bass & Panfish, Flies for Saltwater, Flies for Atlantic Salmon, and the other book reviewed this week, Flies for Steelhead.

Like the others in this series, this is a straightforward, comprehensive pattern book. Patterns are divided into chapters by type: surface flies, nymphs, wet flies, egg flies, and shrimp flies. Patterns are presented four per page, with recipes, Dick Stewart's excellent photographs, and notes detailing points of interest about the fly. Credit is given to the tier in captions on the photos; a side benefit of this book is that you can view flies tied by Harry Lemire, Bill Bakke, Joe Howell, Walt Johnson, Bill McMillan, Syd Glasso, Steve Gobin, and other notable steelhead tiers and fishers.

This is a good addition to your library to provide a single reference for about 300 steelhead patterns. ~ 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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