Over the past, 35 + years, that I have been tying flies, there are a few books that have become top reference books for me, some, that I return to on probably a weekly basis. These are a few of these books, for different reasons, some for patterns, some for techniques, some for sheer beauty and a few for priceless knowledge that can only be learned through decades of inquisitive and experimental fly tying and fishing. Here are a few…
Eric Leiser’s – The Book Of Fly Patterns.
First published 1987 Published by Alfred A. Knopf. INC.
My absolute top go to book, not only for patterns but also techniques. The most complete and useful patterns book for the fly tyer. With over 1000 classic and contemporary patterns for both fresh and salt water flies. With professional tips for solving the problems inherent in each, by a master fly tyer. The photography has not stood the test of time, but the illustrations are simple but beautiful and remarkably informative.
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Gary LaFontaine – Caddisflies.
First published 1981 by Nick Lyons books.
The definitive work on the caddis fly for both the tyer and the angler. Gary LaFontaine’s simple yet practical and effective patterns that cover larvae, pupae, emergers, cripples and adult caddis flies, have become standards in the caddis specialists fly box. With ‘Caddis Flies’ being partly responsible for it. A great book that goes into depth on every single stage of the caddis flies life-cycle, all supported by thousands of hours spent fishing and intellegently observing hatches, and trout feeding behavior. Combine all this with LaFontaine’s very unique theory on fly design and you have a classic book. Unfortunately the black and white photography is extremely poor and explains little, but the illustrations are much more informative and support the brilliant text nicely.
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Dave Hughs – Trout Flies.
First published 1999 by Stackpole Books.
As you can see from the photograph of my Norwegian edition of this book, its been very well used and the dust jacket was worn-torn and discarded within the first decade of using it. This is one of the first books that really covered just about everything for the new beginner to fly tying but was also an indispensable addition to the library of the seasoned fly tyer. There are informative introductory chapters on tools, techniques and materials mostly structured toward the new beginner. With over 500 well known and functional patterns, most photographed step by step in full colour. Most patterns also list alternative variants that can be tied using the same illustrated step by step technique. Although over 20 years old now the photography has stood the test of time and illustrates clearly each step for each technique and pattern.
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Forgotten Flies. Paul Schmookler & Ingrid V. Sils.
First Published 1999 by Complete Sportsman.
A monolith of a book with 550 pages, that have an accumulated weight of just about 5 Kg! This is not a book to be taken on holiday with you. A true coffee table book, in a double sense, you could actually use it as a coffee table! Joking aside, this is one of the most beautifully produced reference books on fly tyers and flies, ever made. Lets start with the flies. All the photography is beautifully detailed and nothing but immaculate, both technically and esthetically, making this a real pleasure to read. The antique flies are for me, of great interest and well worth scrutinizing for the inquisitive. The contemporary renditions in the book of the ‘Forgotten Flies’ are all tied to the highest level of skill by many of the worlds best fly tyers and are like jewels to observe. Every pattern is accompanied with a detailed recipe and accompanying notes, that are also extremely useful and interesting. There are also five or so portraits of some of the most famous US fly tyers and there special flies, that makes captivating reading for the enthusiast. These are supported by unique black & white vintage photographs and connected memorabilia, which give a nice personal touch and face to the name. Forgotten Flies quickly became a classic, and its present day price now reflects its monolithic stature within the fly tying fraternity. If you have an interest as I do, and the money to spare this book will not only give you a lifetime of pleasure, but a good solid investment that will only increase in value.
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Oliver Edwards – Flytyers Masterclass.
First Published 1994 Merlin Unwin Books.
One of the first books that placed a large focus on fly tying techniques. Learning fly tying techniques gives the inquisitive fly tyer a fantastic spring board into adapting existing patterns and creating their own. This was made easy by Oliver Edwards in this book. With his working background as a engineering draftsman his step by step illustrations for each and every pattern in the book made understanding and mastering his techniques plausible with practice, for even the new beginner. A ground breaking book with many of the techniques still worth learning and adapting to more contemporary patterns.
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Ed Jaworowski – Essential saltwater flies.
First published 2007 By Stackpole Books.
Not the first book I purchased on saltwater tying, but one of the best. Another of my go-to books when it comes to established well known patterns, techniques and materials for saltwater patterns. If your tying has not yet stepped into the world of saltwater this is a great choice to begin that journey in safe hands. This is a no nonsense book that is supported by a wealth of fishing and expert tying that explains the materials, techniques and patterns in depth. Each pattern is supported by clear well made step by step images and instructional text.
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Barry Ord Clarke & Robert Spaight – International Guide to Fly Tying Materials.
First Published 1996 Merlin Unwin Books.
I hope you will excuse me from including one of my books. This was my first book on fly tying, back before any of us new what the world wide web was! Even though I wrote this book, with the help of my good friend Robert Spaight, I still use it myself for material reference, I am so long in the tooth now that I can’t remember everything. At the time of researching and writing, I had already a more than usual interest in materials, their origins, uses, procurement and substitutes. So everything I new back in 1996 about materials both natural and synthetic is in this book. Although the book is out of date with regard to suppliers and their contact information, the material info is still of significant help to any tyer and can be purchased now just for a few dollars, for those with an interest.
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Chris Mann- Hairwing & Tube Flies For Salmon.
First Published 2004 By Merlin Unwin Books.
This is a magnificent book for any and everyone, who tie hair wing flies, not only for salmon but also for steelhead & sea trout. Chris was not only a fly fisherman but also a gifted graphic designer. This becomes quite clear once you begin to thumb through the pages of this the second book in a series of three dedicated to, salmon flies of the world. His illustrations, in my humble opinion are better to tie from than photographs as every single hair, hackle barbule and proportion is correct or without fault! So if you are interested in mastering the art of hair wing flies, this book is an indispensable reference! The book chapters cover the history and development of the hair wing, European hair wings and tubes, North American hair wings and a catalogue of dressings. Each and every pattern beautifully illustrated and accompanied by a detailed recipe and history.
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Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils – Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History.
First Published 1994 By Complete Sportsman.
The first of two books, that address rare and unusual fly tying materials. Yet another monolith from Schmookler and Sils, Published in two volumes. The first volume, Birds 1994, and the second volume Birds & Mammals 1997 cover different fly tying materials, and together, these books comprise the most definitive work to date on rare fly tying materials. Volume 1 contains information on 115 different birds whose feathers have historically been used in fly tying, and includes such species as the Indian crow, blue chatterer, golden pheasant, Lady Amherst pheasant, corncrake, toucan, guinea fowl, ocellated turkey, merlin, coot and wood duck. The book is once again a masterpiece with each material including a beautiful painting of the bird its natural history, uses in fly tying and patterns it’s used in… Again a book of great beauty and a real gem to own, that quickly gained the status of collectable classic, which is reflected in the current price. As before, if you have a special interest and the cash to spend you will come to treasure this book.
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Eric Leiser – Fly Tying Materials.
First published 1973 By Nick Lyons Books Manchester Press.
One of the very first, but still most important books I purchased on fly tying. This book was a great influence to my tying career, I have not only read it, I’m not sure how many times, but still on many occasions return to it for reference. Still available, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Although now dated in many ways Leiser’s knowledge of materials and their uses is vast, and are of significant use to fly tyers of every skill level.
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