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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer



Book Review Lefty Krehís Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing 15 January

My Christmas day is usually spent in the studio, doing an early morning shift then going off fishing. The good thing about Christmas is getting a few books and vouchers as Christmas presents from my wife, children and friends. This year was no different from other years, I was fortunate to receive five good books by such authors as Zane Grey, John Gierach, Jack Hemingway, Dave Hughes and Lefty Kreh. Itís the latter authorís book which I am reviewing.

Lefty Krehís Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing published by The Lyons Press. Is a large volume of over 400 pages measuring nine inches by eleven and a half inches with both black and white and colour photographs with many line drawings. This book is probably one of those books that really does answer the questions we ask about fly fishing. In fact within its many pages its everything an angler needs to know from the foremost fly fishing expert of our time. Lefty Kreh is the Richard Walker of America being held in high regard by everyone. I enjoy immensely the time I spend in Leftyís company.

Kreh is generally acknowledged around the world as being the wisest and most widely read fly fishing instructor. Over the past fifty years Lefty has been teaching people to be better anglers. Back in the 1940ís Lefty taught himself photography to such a high standard that in the early 1950ís Lefty was asked by LL Bean to write a book on photography and since those days he has been teaching fly fishing and casting to thousands of people, now in his late seventies he can be seen at all the big shows helping all of us with our casting.

Lefty wasnít born with a silver spoon, before becoming a teenager, Lefty lost his Dad leaving his Mum had to bring up three young children. Lefty to help the family budget would go out and catch catfish, selling those fish for a few cents a pound. During World War 2 he took part in the Battle of the Bulge where he won three Silvers Stars and a Purple Heart.

The book covers both fresh and saltwater fish, the tackle, saltwater and freshwater flies, knots and leaders these two very important items in fly fishing are well covered. Reading the water and spotting fish is covered in depth. You will learn how to approach and present the fly. Problem with your casting Lefty will help you and the subject which is most important to all anglers. The handling of fish and conservation practices are covered. This is not a book just for the beginner. Itís the book from which all of us can learn. I recommend Lefty Krehís Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing published by Lyons Press ISBN number 1-59228-111-7 too all fly fishers and give it ten out of ten for the knowledge contained within this book

Book Reviews - Martin James - May 2003

At this time of the year many of us spend a lot of time fly fishing small streams and rivers for brown trout. Living in the north of England certainly gives me a fly fisher many such waters to fish, compared with prices in the south of England the fishing is very cheap. One club I joined this year cost me just £25-00 a season £8-00 for a pensioner. Being the latter I elected to pay the full amount, as I am able to fish five days a week.

You might say, "But the fishing in the south of England is better", not really true. I used to fish a river Kennet syndicate water where the cost was around £4000-00 a season for stocked rainbow and brown trout. The fishing I experience on northern rivers and streams is more often for wild brown trout. Should I catch a rainbow which has escaped I will kill that fish. Rainbows have no place in most of our rivers and streams.

If all your fishing has been done on stillwaters, then your in for a new learning process when you first visit a river or stream. Many times you will be on your hands and knees, in fact at the head waters of one northern river. I often have to wriggle on my stomach to get within casting distance of some big brown trout averaging 4lbs. Lets get one fact correct, these river fish are no more intelligent than their stillwater cousins. They are just wild fish which notice any changes on the river bank or in the water. Lets be honest the brown trout when feeding at the surface should be quite easy to catch. They let us know where they live, then tell us what they are eating. Then providing we present a fly that resembles the real thing, and donít spook the fish. It should eat our fly. But it doesnít always do so. After an hour of trying everything we know. We become exasperated and look for an easier fish. Its back to the bookshelf for new ideas.

I have just finished reading two books that will certainly help all of you in catching brown trout from small streams and rivers. The first title is Fly Fishing Small Streams by John Gierach published by Stackpole Books. Its a soft cover book, full of information and amusing tales. Gierach has written some excellent books over the years, such as Another Lousy Day In Paradise, Sex, Death and Fly Fishing, Even Brook Trout Get The Blues, Dances With Trout and Trout Bum, are a few titles. Even after a lifetime of fishing small streams, I have certainly learnt a lot from reading Fly Fishing Small Streams. John starts off by writing about the small stream environment. One chapter starts Tree-lined banks provide shade, and thatís good because the water needs to be kept cool, and trout like shade. Next time your club want to hack down the riverside trees because the members lose flies, suggest those members take a casting lesson.

Chapter 2 Sneaking Around On Your Hands And Knees. I just loved this chapter and many of Johnís quotes On page 39 John writes Speaking of shadows, you throw one yourself, and so does your fly rod. Either one is guaranteed to scare the hell out of the fish. When your next out on a fishing trip make sure you donít spook your fish with a shadow. Then on page 50 he writes: When you meet someone on the creek, try to remember how small the stream is and how easy it is to spook every fish in it. Go farther around him than you would on a river.

How many times have you sat and watched a feeding trout, finally you decide on the pattern of fly to use. Then you spend twenty minutes or more to get into a casting position. As you lift the rod to make a false cast, some idiot on the skyline asks "Have you caught anything" you mutter obscenities under your breath. This chapter covers many of the points we should be aware of when we are at the waterside. You will certainly learn a lot on how to find answers to stream side fishing problems.

Another amusing and informative chapter is The Comfort of The Stuff Its so honest and true, as you read this chapter you immediately realise he is writing about you. John starts I now own what youíd have to describe as a whole mess of fly rods that were accumulated over the course of about twenty years. They trace two personal histories: first, the search for the perfect all-round rod, then the hunt for various ideal speciality numbers, including the small stream rod. Itís been fun, itís been expensive, and itís probably not over. In my case itís been going on for some sixty years and I am still looking. Other chapters in the book are A Crisp, Low, Sidearm Roll Cast. - You Can Catch ĎEm On Anything. . - Where There Are Trout Thereís Hope.

Fly Fishing Small Streams by John Gierach published by Stackpole Books ISBN 0-8117-2290-2. Is a book I can thoroughly recommend, I couldnít put it down until I had read it from cover to cover. I then had to go off and fish one of my small Pennine streams.

Trout from Small Streams - Dave Hughes

Author Dave Hughes has lived all his life in that delightful State of Oregon on the Pacific Northwest coast of America with its many fine trout rivers and streams. I have known Dave for several years, and his pedigree in writing his latest book Trout from Small Streams published by Stackpole books is gained from years and years of experience at the waters edge. He is not only an excellent fly fisher but he is also an entomologist.

Chapter eight An Essential Fly Box - Dave writes Many years ago I recognised that I enjoyed prowling small streams so much, and did it so often to the neglect of what some consider higher forms of fly fishing, that I decided to build a fly box dedicated to the waters I loved most and fished most often. It was foolish to go out onto streams that were often difficult to navigate carrying all that weight and bulk of flies I would never use for that kind of fishing. So I condensed them down to almost nothing. I bought an Altoids mints tin, ate the candy, and glued in packing foam to hold hooks. This tin held a couple dozen flies, and for some - most of them my "if they want take dry flies, they wonít take anything".

Trout from Small Streams is an in depth book, covering every aspect of the subject. Its a more technical book than Gierachís book Fly Fishing Small Streams. After reading Hughes book I can honestly say "I have never come across a fishing condition on a trout stream that wasnít covered in this book" No doubt, you like me have seen an angler with his half a dozen fly boxes packed with hundreds of flies, Flies that donít even live in their local waters. That angler and many like him could well copy Daveís example and whittle down the number of flies they take to the waters edge. I remember a couple of seasons ago using just one fly. A Paythorn Olive, I used that dry fly on many waters in Scandinavia, the UK and America. It didnít let me down. No doubt I could have caught more fish, if I had changed fly patterns when needed, but I still had a lot of fun.

The books contents cover everything from tackle, nymphs, dry flies, habitat, reading small pools, working wet flies, streamers and much more. On the subject of streamers I suggest the next time you spot a big trout, and it doesnít want to eat your small dry, wet fly or nymph. Then chuck it a big zonker or streamer such as an Ace of Spades. I have just caught a big brown trout from the river Aire on a size 6 beaded leech pattern. Author Dave Hughes has so much to share and so much to teach from his many years at the waterside. Trout from Small Streams by Dave Hughes Published by Stackpole publishers ISBN number 0-8117-0031-3


Tug-O-War A Fly Fishers Game by Nick Curcione Published by Frank Amato Publications

The great thrill in saltwater fly fishing for me is trying to catch wild fish from a natural environment with the sounds and smells of the ocean. Hooking fish which certainly pull the string and bend the stick. Its a sport where you can hook a fish that will often take two hundred yards of line off the reel in its first burst of speed.

In the UK we are surrounded by the ocean, back in the 1800ís a handful of anglers tried saltwater fly fishing. In the Badminton Library Sports & Pastimes edited by His Grace The Duke of Beaufort, KG published 1885 one title Sea Fishing by John Bickerdyke chapter 5 there are 30 odd pages covering saltwater fly fishing. The chapter starts Fly fishing in the sea is a lottery. There is more of it than most people suppose, but there is no kind of sea fishing more uncertain. Occasionally, takes are reported which would fill the salmon or sea-trout fisher with wonderment; but the blank days are enough to make angels weep. That could be true in those far off days, but not today with the vast amount of knowledge available.

Its only in the past few years anglers have started to chuck flies in UK saltwater catching bass, flounder, mackerel, coalfish, pollock, whiting, salmon and seatrout. Much of what we know has been given to us through the writing of many American anglers such as Lefty Kreh, Ed Mitchell, Jack Sampson, Trey Combs and Lou Tarbory to name a few. Another name who has given us so much is Nick Curcione. Nick has fished from Alsaka to Baja, California to Connecticut and all places in between. To spend time in Nickís company is certainly a fun experience. This certainly comes through in Nickís latest book

Some years ago Nick had a series of articles on shooting heads published in an American saltwater fly fishing magazine. I reckon it was the best ever on the subject. His first book was The Orvis Guide to Saltwater Fly Fishing Lyons & Burford published in 1994. In 2001 Frank Amato one of the nice guys in the angling world who hails from Portland Oregon published Nickís latest work Tug-O-War. The first thing that impressed me about this book was the quality of the photographs and Nicks knowledge and enthusiasm about the sport.

Tug-0-War isnít just a book for those new to the sport of saltwater fly fishing, the more experienced angler can learn a lot from reading this book Especially if your planning to visit warmer climes. There are seven big chapters: Tackling the Equipment Issue Fly Rods and Reels, Laying It On the Line, Backing, Fly Line and Leader Basics, Knots You Should Know, The Ultimate Deception Saltwater Flies, Casting Your Line Upon The Waters, The Game Plan Fly Fishing Strategies and Donít Leave Home Without It, Auxiliary Gear. The line drawings covering the knots are excellent. This is not a book to read once then leave on the book shelf. Its a book to be read time and time again. Each time you pick up Tug-O-War you will probably learn something new. Tug-O-War A Fly Fishers Game by Nick Curcione Published by Frank Amato Publications soft cover ISBN 1-57188-250-2 hard back ISBN 1-57188-263-4


A Book For Fly Fishers

I have often said that May is the most delightful month of the year in the anglers calendar.
It's the month of the dry fly, which I feel is a delightful way of catching brown trout from our rivers and streams.
Of course back in the late 1800ís there was a lot of controversy over fishing the dry fly and nymph. The two protagonists were, in the dry fly corner F M Halford and in the nymphing corner was G.E.M Skues.
As we know today, both methods catch lots of fish and both demand equal skills to be successful. I always feel April is a nymphing month and May the time for the dry fly, hopefully we shall have a season with lots of aquatic flies to encourage the trout to rise. This month sees the publication of an exceptionally good book from Robert Hale Publishers Titled F M Halford and The Dry Fly Revolution by Tony Hayter.

I can only describe this book as a very historic, interesting and entertaining one, on the life of Frederick Halford originally named Hyam. The founder of the family Simon or Simcha (also known as Simon Ipswich) was born in Hamburg about 1740 and came to Ipswich from Germany in 1790. The man who was to become the High Priest of dry fly fishing was born Frederick Michael Hyam on the 13th April 1844 at Spring Hill Birmingham.

Author, Tony Hayter, is well qualified to write such an historic book on one of the great and famous names in angling worldwide. Tony a former university lecturer and professional historian caught his first fish in 1947. The author has written other books which include The Army and the Crowd in Mid-Georgian England and An Eighteenth-Century Secretary at War.

In chapter 1, The Early Days, it's interesting to learn that Halford started off by catching the big brown trout on the Thames, but even in those early days he proved he was a thinking angler.
It was fascinating to read about Halford fishing the river Wandle which started life in the Carshalton area of Surrey being one of the most prized fisheries near London. Halford could leave his club or office, then catching a train from London Bridge he could be on the fishery in half an hour.

Chapter 2, titled The Chalk-Stream World, Tony Hayter writes about the chalk streams and those anglers who visited them. Many of the famous names from the past are described in detail. Making it more interesting, are extracts from the Field Magazine, along with the Fishing Gazette. They were the top magazines of the day. The Field magazine certainly had some great angling editors in the late 1800s early 1900s. Great names from the past such as Francis Francis, William Senior and Hugh Tempest Sherringham. Editors who were not only great writers but very experienced anglers. Having visited Winchester on many occasions and fished the Itchen, this chapter came alive and certainly made fascinating reading.

Chapter 3, Houghton: The Club and The Anglers, Is another step back into a bygone age. Hayter certainly knows how to research and write about historic events. We learn that a season rod at Houghton cost £20-00 in 1885 rising to £25-00. Halfordís clothing and tackle cost £100-00 a year, a considerable outlay when a coachman was paid twenty-six shillings a week.
Reading this book, F M Halford and The Dry Fly Revolution, by Tony Hayter, Published by Robert Hale Books it seems as if fishing in those days was certainly for the wealthy.

Other chapters are The Houghton Years 1877-1886, Test and Itchen 1887-1904, Ramsbury 1893-1896, Towards Exact Imitation 1897-1904, Mottisfont 1905-1913 .
The final chapter 10 is simply titled Halford, Skues and History. Every chapter throughout this fascinating book deserves a ten out of ten.
The final chapter must have one extra point. Like all the previous chapters, it was most informative, having read the books of Halford and Skues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the young and not so young Skues. This is a book that I can thoroughly recommend to you the reader. It's one of those hard to put down books. Thankfully, it arrived just as the coarse fishing season ended so I had a long weekend to read this excellent book from the pen of historian Tony Hayter.
F M Halford and The Dry Fly Revolution Published by Robert Hale Books is now in the book shops price £25-00 just as we start a new fly fishing season.

Martin James Fishing