The statistics on how little our culture reads are discouraging. I’m not on a campaign to change the course of literary appreciation through the fly fishing community, but appreciating the sport naturally extends to what has been written.
Three months ago I put together a list of four books on fly fishing that I recommend. I split the books into three categories:
- Guide (regional, site specific)
- Technical (methods, locations, fly tying)
- Literature (novels, biographies, history)
These aren’t formal distinctions by any stretch of the imagination. Nor are these the “best fly fishing books.” They aren’t necessary even in my top five. But they are great books, and I do suggest you pick them up.
There really isn’t any bad time of the year to fish the Upper Delaware River system. Assuming water releases are consistent, the West Branch, East Branch, and main stem all provide opportunities for trout in every season. And big trout, for that matter. Paul Weamer’s book is a necessary companion for fishing these rivers. They are large by any standard, and gargantuan for the east coast. Access issues, be they logistical or legal, is reason enough to have the book in your car when you head to fish. Plus, the author does a great job of talking details, history, and technique in a seamless manner. He also discusses conservation, fly patterns, and culture. If you plan on fishing these amazing rivers, get the book. If you’re interested in making the trip to New York, buy the book and your mind will be made up.
“I just saw a fish rise!” might be one of the most ambiguous, confused, and misappropriated statements heard on the river. Indeed, watching a trout come to the surface to take a bug (real or fake) is one of the best moments of fishing. But when the fish are splashing about and not eating your fly, the obvious question is: what’s wrong? From years of studying fish from his “trout blind” on the banks of the Letort Spring Run in Carlisle, PA, Marinaro presents one of the most comprehensive treatises on riseforms ever compiled. The photography is captivating, the insights are eye-opening, and his love for the sport will rub off on you. This book has great historical value, and is a great buy for the student of fly fishing.
Literature Brook Trout, by Nick Karas
Karas’ Brook Trout was the first book on trout (or char, for that matter) that I ever owned. At nearly 500 pages, this tome is the first and last word on salvelinus fontinalis. Great attention is paid to areas like biology, distribution, and even angling tactics. But the major thrust of the book, and the real burden undertaken in the project, is the historical look at brook trout. While there are plenty of other salmonids in the United States, the brook trout’s original range was also the setting of this nation’s birth and formative years. If you’ve ever caught one of the massive brookies of Maine or Labrador, reading this book will make you wish it was possible to travel back in time to when fish of that size swam in waters as far south as the Midatlantic.
The subtitle to this book that is styled like a comic is “A Fully Illustrated Guide to the Strategy, Finesse, Tactics, and Paraphernalia of Fly Fishing.” That sounds like a whole lot to cover – and it is. But The Curtis Creek Manifesto does a great job in presenting the essentials of the sport in a brief manner. This book isn’t going to take the veteran to uncharted territory. But it can do something better: this is the book to use when introducing someone to fly fishing. Kids and adults unfamiliar with tippet, mending, and streamers will find the format and information useful as they get started. Give this book as a gift, and then follow up with an offer to go fishing.