Books: Winter Time is Reading and Tying Time

Winter time is increasingly a time of reading for me. I just don’t have the drive to get out in the winter as much as I used to when I was a younger person. I’m not sad about that— rather I’m quite content in the colder months to spend time reading about fly fishing and tying flies and looking back and looking ahead.

Lately I’m all about fundamentals. Tenkara has taught me that my fundamentals were not as solid as I had thought. The simplicity of tenkara revealed flaws in my thinking and in my fishing that were hidden under layers of excuses. A lot of those excuses were related to flies and fly anxiety—not having the “right” fly.  After picking up tenkara I slowly started to come around to the idea of presentation over imitation. That the more I did it – the more I realized that it was my presentation (or approach, or fish finding skills) that were holding me back rather than not having the “right” fly.

In fact, lately I’ve come to realize that my previous preoccupation with fly tying and hatch matching, though not completely fruitless, was probably one of the biggest things holding back my development as an angler. When things were not working on the stream I was spending way too much time worrying about finding the “right” fly instead of honing my presentation, stealth and fishing finding skills.  I feel like I wasted years going down the wrong path.

Bob Wyatt’s book What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths can hopefully save you some time and keep you on the straight and narrow.

In this book Bob Wyatt really goes out on a limb to challenge much of what we’ve been taught in western fly fishing. And I respect that a lot. It’s not easy to go against the grain of hundreds of years of “knowledge”.  The fact that Wyatt is reducing complication and telling us that fly fishing really is simpler than we’ve been taught makes the book ring true. He doesn’t really have much to gain (if you think writing a fly fishing book is a money making prospect I’ve got some land in Florida to sell you) by myth busting. In fact he’s got more to lose by challenging the accepted notions. I know as a tenkara angler that folks don’t always take kindly to the idea that fly fishing doesn’t have to be so complicated and perhaps… gasp … that trout aren’t all that smart.

Parts of the book are devoted to analyzing and debunking previous thinking and writing on fly fishing and then others spend time emphasizing what Wyatt sees as the important fundamentals of presentation and simple, impressionistic fly tying.

It’s a wonderful book that will, hopefully get you out of the rut of always looking for that one magic fly and instead get you to focus on your fundamentals such as presentation. I know it gave me a nice kick in the butt to shed some lingering ideas that I had about “educated” trout. If you read it and take it to heart I think you’ll be better off for it—I know that I was.

That said we are fly anglers after all and we need flies to go along with that perfect presentation that we’re working on. Morgan Lyle’s book Simple Flies is the perfect companion fly tying book to go with What Trout Want. In fact I learned about What Trout Want from Simple Flies. Simple Flies is more than just a fly-tying recipe book though. Morgan Lyle presents the theories and thoughts behind his interest in tying and fishing simple flies, along with great background info, history, biographies and anecdotes. He also provides detailed tying instructions with step by step photos for 52 simple to tie flies that will catch fish.

This book would make a great first fly tying book for any would-be fly tier, and even more so for those interested in keeping it simple in the face of the complexity that confronts fly tiers in todays world. I really think it deserves a special place in the libraries of tenkara anglers who may already have been awakened to the simpler possibilities of fly fishing and tying. I did a Q&A with Morgan for the first post on the 3RT Blog.

In his book Nymph Masters: Fly Fishing Secrets from Expert Anglers, author Jason Randall taps into the knowledge of fishing giants such as George Daniel, Landon Mayer, Lefty Kreh, Ed Jaworowski, Ed Engle, Gary Borger, and Joe Humphreys and shares their top nymphing techniques, flies, and tactics with you. Randall covers everything from rigging flies, reading the water, casting, and fighting fish.

Though this is not a tenkara specific book (tenkara does get a few mentions though) it still contains loads of relevant information that you can adapt and apply to tenkara nynphing. Some of the rigging details may differ from western angling to tenkara but the fundamentals remain the same. The angler needs to understand what to do with the nymph, how the river is fighting this and how to overcome that inherent difficulty, and this book covers those problems of nymphing extremely thoroughly. I have to admit Randall has packed so much into the book that it is a bit dense and intense – I suspect most of us will benefit from repeated readings and frequent revisitations of the material.

A good portion of the book is spent in detailing what is going on in the subsurface. The nymph fisherman needs to understand how a river flows (in three dimensions) in order to even begin trying to solve the problem of how to get the fly to the fish, detect the strike and set the hook. There is a lot of information in the book about the topic of hydrodynamics – and it deserves a very careful reading on those points. Understanding the hydrodynamics of the river’s flow is not only key to getting our nymphs to behave like we want, but also for detecting strikes and ultimately in learning to identify the best feeding lies.

Randall gives us a grounding in current nymphing techniques like short-line and long-line nymphing as well as pros and cons of strike indicators and how to get the most out of their use. And then he does a great job of detailing how to locate trout in moving waters. He then brings it together with case studies of different on-the-water scenarios and finally with fly patterns (including nice color photos) from the contributing experts.

And finally you’ll need some rivers to fish. As a Pennsylvania guy I think my home state has got some pretty great places to fish. And the book Keystone Fly Fishing is over 600 pages of detailed info on where to wet a line. I guarantee that this book will turn you on to some wonderful new places to fish in Pennsylvania – and perhaps help get you out of a rut of always going to the same places, or maybe help you to find some quite waters away from the crowds.