Fly Fishing Literature: Fishing with the Fly

by Charles F. Orvis – A. Nelson Cheney 1883


” What comfortable satisfaction or foreboding premonitions do you image possess the noble lord while he is taking his recuperative rest in the middle chamber, after passing from his matriculation in the sea ? Faith ! you can almost read his emotions in the slow pulsations of his pectoral fins, and the infliction of his throbbing tail ? Perhaps he shrinks from the barricade of rock and foam before him ; or hesitates to essay the royal arch above the gorge, which reflects in prismatic hues of emblematic glory the mist and mysteries of the unattempted passage.
And his doughty squires around him ; do they share his misgivings, or are they all royal bloods together, sans peur sans reproche, in scale armiture of blue and silver, eager to attain the land of promise and the ultimate degree of revelation ? Ah, the way is indeed beset with difficulties and crucial tests, but its end is joy and fulness of knowledge : and “knowledge is the beginning of life.”

boy that’s schmaltzy but what  great schmaltz !


along with assorted goodies such as: Fly Casting for Salmon, The Angler’s Greeting and close to my heart, Why Peter Went A-Fishing
this isn’t your average collection of angling literature.


there’s also a few of these but the real gems are in word form.
to access the 302 other pages on Internet Archive click either pic. enjoy !


how cool is this ?

fly casting finess cover

needles to say, it is an enormous honour to have TLC‘s fly casting reference page mentioned in this recent book by John L. Field !

funny thing, and i sincerely hope you’ll pardon my ignorance, John…  is until now i’ve never heard of this gentleman but that’s all about to change as i just downloaded the book through Amazon/Kindle and it’s coming with me on a short trip in the higher Pyrenees tomorrow where i’ll be not only reading in the shade, hiding from the heat wave we’re currently going through if the fishing is slow but also trying out an absolutely fantastic small-stream jewel of a 6′ 3wt Superfast bamboo rod hand made by Monsieur Hulot umm, Luke Banister lent for review along with a too-nice-for-me hand-made wooden scoop net by Mark Leggett of Alternative Tackle just last week in Cumbria, England.

there’s a real home-mattress in the back of the fish-van and chocolate and coffee is packed: this should be fun.

fly casting finesse reference

click either image to access Skyhorse Publishing’s page for more info on John’s book.
and a big thanks for the heads-up on all this to buddy Will Shaw !

Floating Flies and How to Dress Them

by Fredric M. Halford 1886 via

halford 1

cold, depressed by closed rivers and the oncoming xmas onslaught ? here’s a little something that should distract you for at least a little while. regular readers will already know of my lack of affection for this Halford character but that doesn’t mean that he was all bad. the book is after all a classic and well worth the read, specially at work or hidden away in a back room during family festivities.

halford 2

see ? anyone that says grayling are silly can’t be all bad. click either image to access the complete online book. enjoy !

Fly Fishing Literature- G E M Skues The Man of the Nymph

‘The Man of the Nymph”. if the title alone isn’t just the sexiest thing ever than i don’t know what is !
piscatorial lasciviousness aside, check out the video. Hayter’s enthusiasm gives me the idea that this book’s a winner.

“The long awaited definitive biography of a fly fishing icon. Written with a rare authority by Tony Hayter one of our foremost angling historians, and published by Robert Hale Ltd. We had the honour to film the book launch at the Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge, Hampshire, and conduct an interview with the author.

This video contains clips from the launch and excerpts from the interview” enjoy !

Tickled by Boars

i don’t know about you but i could take a break from the common weekend frame of mind that seems to permeate the world right now. what follows should do the trick at least for a little while and it won’t leave you with either a hangover, bad after-taste or any sticky fluids to clean up.
from the continued series of deliriously thoughtful fly fishing insights from the unique mind of Mark Surtees, enjoy !


Deep in the lower Clitterhouse woods, in a bower of Summer Lilac and Dog Rose, Major Buckram Cropstwattle the aged, but otherwise debonair, doyen of the Finchley Church End and Temple Fortune Cuttlefish Fanciers Bridge club twisted and groaned like a wild woodland spaniel tickled by boars.

Beside him the bounteous, bumptious, Bellini fueled widow Mrs Winky Wilberforce shifted her pulchritudinous rump in an act of voluptuous paisley patterned enticement that no simple Cuttlefish fancier could ever hope to resist.

“Migod Winky” he moaned, clutching the agate grips of the trusty ZA self jerker and blinking helplessly…..”we must stop before I infarct”

With one hand gripping a glistening self whittled weaseling trident she leant across the erubescent Major and slowly slipped the other between the studded straps of his battered old ZA “Pulvermachers Bi-pole electro” Casting Support.

“Stop, Bucky ?…” she whispered close, husky…maraschino sweet, “…nnnooo, my love, we have only just begun.”

Expertly teasing apart the pouch elastics, her every touch peach syrup soft, she probed once again with the cherry tipped trident tines at his pre-stressed Pulvermacher dangling gimbals and tensioned the suspensory appliance silks.

The Major, hypermetropic and pent, could resist no more and he rammed down the belt mounted ZA “Castassist” Ergonergy release plunger with all his remaining power.

Plasma slashed between the positive and negative bolt connectors of the Pulvermachers bi-pole personal teslas.

“AaaWOOOO…FORWARD!!>>>CHARGE THE GUNS!! …” he roared, lurching violently beneath the bucking branches of the ominously creaking Lilac and thrust the crackling self jerker forwards in one final, and enormous, effort.

Afterwards, he span happily from the ZA “Pulvermachers” Dorsal D. Smiling wetly, spent, in a gently falling shower of blue blossom cinders.


Not too far away, a wild eyed weasel whippet vibrated, tail tucked and a solitary Brent Valley moose considered, just for a moment, making an early start to the annual rut.


bipolar electric belt


How to Dress It and How to Use It.

not much to not like with a title like that..,
Salmon Fly-dressit, use it
but with topics such as: Underwater Experiments, The ‘Instrument of Satisfaction’ (my favourite !),  Diagnosis of Flies, Symmetry of Flies, The ‘Line-of-Pull’, Holding the Hook (tying these lovely flies by hand) and gorgeous plates like this, that it’s kinda turned into a love affair.

this one’s a really special find that i hope you’ll enjoy as much as i did. click either pic to access the complete 510 page book online on OpenLibrary or HERE to download it in pdf file or Kindle and other nifty ways to read it later when offline.

D-Looping with Jason Borger

MF in JB's casting book 12-8-13
the pic should say it all but there needs to be a big woW ! to make it complete.
having The Limp Cobra and myself mentioned in Jason’s upcoming book ‘SINGLE-HANDED FLY CASTING – A Modular Approach’ is about the coolest thing that can happen to a casting instructor. to say it’s an honor doesn’t really my feelings justice but i’m sure you get the point.

in the making now for what seems like an eternity the last several years, a completely reworked edition of NATURE OF FLY CASTING  – A Modular Approach seems to be close to completion.

” I am continuing to flail away on SHFC, grabbing writing time as I can. Everything that I plan on including in the book is in the book, but not fully fleshed out. Some chapters are about 97-percent, others are more like 67-percent. It’s the 67-pecenters that I am focusing on right now, including the D-Loop chapter (Rolls and Speys).

I am still optimistic for an end-of-2013 finish, with the print run soon after that (figure that I’ll let the book sit for two extra weeks so I can check it over again, then six weeks for the press).”

bring on 2014 !

Making it float

in yet another reminder of just how much ‘we’ve got it good’, here’s a more than interesting article on the long-ago development of floating fly lines and flies via The Fishing Museum Online.
i’ve selected a few amusing tidbits for you here but be sure to click on the tub of deer fat for the full article. enjoy !


“When anglers used relatively short lines – the vast majority of flies were fished less than twenty feet from the rod tip until the end of the 18th century – there wasn’t much need to make flies float, because they could literally be dangled on, or just under the surface. However, when longer braided lines came along and, in particular, when anglers made the move to silk lines, their tackle began to sink, dragging the fly under with it and so all kinds of ingenuity had to be applied to making it stay on the surface.”

“In the end, the tackle manufacturers stepped in and firms like Hardy’s and dealers like Chalkley started selling red deer fat, which was rubbed onto silk lines using a cloth.

Deer fat tinNeedless to say, some anglers objected to the idea of having to carry a stinking cloth dripping with rancid fat around in their pockets…”

“Another popular method of treating a fly so that it would float was to dissolve Vaseline in petrol; the artificial was dipped in the solution, and the petrol left to evaporate, leaving the fly coated in the gel. Once this method was perfected, the stage was set for a mini-golden age of dry fly gizmos, designed to paint, spray, or drizzle paraffin onto flies, without the risk of unplanned escapes (paraffin soaked clothes being a serious fire risk in an age when smoking was far more common than it is now). The ingenuity behind the design of some of these devices has to be seen to be believed, although there are one or two which were simply too clever for their own good – and although they were manufactured in quantity, few remain, perhaps because the majority of their owners flung them into the river in disgust. As an example we give you the ferociously complicated Illingworth oiler, most of which survive without their internal mechanisms, which, with few exceptions sprang to freedom long ago.”

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From dry fly purists to Euronymphers, every fly fishing group is a society of island universes.”

~ Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Fly Fishing Perception

BC island

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fly fishing quotes
fly fishing literature
never alone

The View From Coal Creek

-Reflections on Fly Rods, Canyons and Bamboo-

what a nice treat and just in time for the holidays ! one of my all time favorite fly fishing writers, Erin Block the woman behind the awesome Mysteries Internal blog has just finished what i’m more than certain will be by judging her wonderful writing, a milestone in fly fishing literature.
if you’re not familiar with Erin’s world, click the link above and you’ll see what i mean. magical…

“The View from Coal Creek is a reflection on fly rods, fishing, and life seen from the vantage of a canyon in Colorado, but these are props in a larger story about life, love, and tradition. Erin Block is a young, powerful voice carrying the torch and passing on lessons, values, and history of this great, literary and vibrant sport.”

 the view from coal cree- erin block

available in just a few weeks, click the pic to pre-order yours from Whitefish Press at a special price as soon as possible as i’m sure they’ll go fast.

What Trout Want is out !

 here’s your chance to get a pre-run autographed copy of Bob Wyatt‘s infamous book. it’s a limited edition, so hurry ! click the pic to access Carl McNeil’s sale page and Bob’s link to see some of the groovy flies and stuff already shared here.

speaking of, be on the lookout for an up and coming Cobra-Contest giveaway with one of Bob’s great tying videos as prize. stay tuned !

Words on Water

although recently dwarfed by a ‘Kerouacish’ mainstream approach from the west, fly fishing literature in the UK is still thriving and strong and this pleasant, entertaining little 30 minute listen will put the interested reader in touch with several authors of interest.

it’s about the water, what it contains and incorporating these in our lives more that just catching fish.

click the pic to access the podcast. enjoy !

The Northern Angler or, Fly-Fisher’s Companion

Gay’s ‘On Fly Making left me a little hungry  so after a little research i found this lovely 124 paged blast from the past by John Kirkbride first published in 1837 via
filled with all sorts of insights on fishing, tactics, flies, tweed and graced with a good dose of poetry, it’s a sweet read.

once again, i highly recommend reading these at work or instead of watching tv, we all need a break from the dismal.
click the image to access the flip-page book. enjoy !

‘On Fly Making

” To frame the little animal, provide
All the gay hues that wait on female pride;
Let nature guide thee. Sometimes golden wire
The shining bellies of the fly require.
The peacock’s plumes thy tackle must not fail,
Nor the dear purchase of the sable’s tail;
Each gaudy bird some slender tribute brings,
And lends the growing insect proper wings;
Silks, of all colours, must their aid impart,
And every fur, promote the fisher’s art.”

-The Northern Angler or, Fly-Fisher’s Companion- by John Kirkbride 1837

To My Dearest Wife – Happy Eighth Anniversary

one of the sweetest and funniest (and of course about fly fishing :mrgreen: ) declarations of love i’ve come across.

from our friend Acey Fiveash, the fly fishing Agitated Angler known word-wide for his incessant rants on not being able to go fish more often and winner of the highly acclaimed Stupid Cobra Contest.
i hesitated in re-printing the whole piece but cutting it up didn’t do it justice.
do yourself the favor of checking out both of Acey’s blogs by clicking on the links above. enjoy !

My dearest Wife,

I have searched far and wide, and across multiple supermarket card isles for anything that could fully expressed my love for you, on this, our eighth anniversary. Alas, Bi-Lo, Harris Teeter and the super Walmart has let us both down, so instead I am writing  this letter to share with you,  and many strangers on the internet, how deep my love for you flows.

And oh how it flows. Like a mighty river coming down a mountain my love flows for you, rushing over boulders and cascading down cliffs into deep plunge pools where large trout likely live waiting for a well presented streamer,and those plunge pools in turn flows into some nice pocket water that may be kind of hard to navigate but if you’re careful you should be able to fish it down to where the gradient evens out a bit creating a good calf-deep riffle that tails-out into a glassy pool that seems like a great place to find a thick hatch of some kind but it’s often kind of hard to tell with these things when you don’t know how fertile the river is, of course this is my dream river so it can be as fertile as I want it to be…

I’m sorry Sweetie, the river analogy just won’t work, it’s way too distracting for me. So scratch the whole “my love flows deep thing”.

I’m going to start over now…

With a late ninety’s catch phrase popularized by a crazy scientologist.

You complete me. Cliche but true. Without you I would probably be a complete mess, spending my nights in a haze of booze, weed and sex, spending my days bumming around America’s streams and rivers, working odd jobs just long enough to make enough money to get to the next fishable piece of water. I would be constantly drunk on the freedom of the open road…

Wow, this is not going well.


I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life.

You are possibly the only woman alive who can put up with my particular brand of bullshit.

You are beautiful, smart, kind, a wonderful mother to our children and you like my cooking.

In twenty years when the children are finely out of our house I can’t imagine that we’ll ever have that bleak moment where we look at each other across the table and realize that we have nothing left to talk about, because there will always be television, comic books and science. And jokes about tyrannosaurus rex having short arms.

You are truly my best friend and I would be completely lost without you.

And if something did happen to you, rest assure I would never remarry, because my first move would be to pack up the kids and move to Alaska, where there are no available women. Plus I would be too heart broken after loosing the love of my life.

Happy eighth anniversary, I love you more than you could possibly know.

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Mayfly chit-chat

here’s an amusing little extract from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Reaper Man‘, enjoy !

The sun was near the horizon.
The shortest-lived creatures on the Disc were mayflies, which barely make it through twenty-four hours. Two of the oldest zigzagged aimlessly over the waters of a trout stream, discussing history with some younger members of the evening hatch.
“You don’t get the kind of sun new that you used to get,” said one of them.
“You’re right there. We had proper sun in the good old hours. It were all yellow. None of this red stuff.”
“It were higher, too,”
“It was. You’re right.”
“And nymphs and larvae showed you a bit of respect.”
“They did. They did,” said the other mayfly vehemently.
“I reckon, if mayflies these hours behaved a bit better, we‘d still be having proper sun.”
The younger mayflies listened politely.
“I remember,” said one of the oldest mayflies, “when all this was fields, as far as you could see.”
The younger mayflies looked around.
“It’s still fields,” one of them ventured, after a polite interval,
“I remember when it was better fields,” said the old mayfly sharply.
“Yeah,” said his colleague. “And there was a cow.”
“’That’s right! You’re right! I remember that cow! Stood right over there for, oh, forty, fifty minutes. It was brown, as I recall.”
“You don’t get cows like that these hours.”
“You don’t get cows at all.”
“What’s a cow?” said one of the hatchlings.
“See‘?” said the oldest mayfly triumphantly. “That’s modern Ephemeroptera for you.” It paused. “What were we doing before we were talking about the sun‘?”
“Zigzagging aimlessly over the water,” said one of the young flies. This was a fair bet in any case.
“No, before that.”
“Er ….you were telling us about the Great Trout.”
“Ah. yes, Right. The Trout. Well, you see, if you’ve been a good mayfly, zigzagging up and down properly – ”
“ – taking heed of your elders and betters – “
“ – yes, and taking heed of your elders and betters, then eventually the Great Trout – ”
“Yes?” said one of the younger mayflies.
There was no reply.
“The Great Trout what?” said another mayfly, nervously,
They looked down at a series of expanding concentric rings on the water.
“The holy sign!” said a mayfly. “I remember being told about that! A Great Circle in the water! Thus shall be the sign of the Great Trout!”
The oldest of the young mayflies watched the water thoughtfully. It was beginning to realise that, as the most senior fly present, it now had the privilege of hovering closest to the surface.
“They say,” said the mayfly at the top of the zigzagging crowd, “that when the Great Trout comes for you, you go to a land flowing with…., Flowing with…..” Mayflies don’t eat. It was at a loss.
“Flowing with water,” it finished lamely.
“I wonder,” said the oldest mayfly.
“It must be really good there,” said the youngest,
“Oh‘? Why?”
“’Cos no one ever wants to come back.”

The Dancing Cast.

by Erin Block
what a hard task it would be to pick a favorite among  Erin’s writings. each one creative, sensitive and oft darn-right beautiful, her words couldn’t come at a better time in the world of fly fishing literature. 

here’a a little snippet of one that particularly touched me. 

 ” I watched, as a wild wallflower.


His left hand pulled….up…..down….up….down — in time with his right arm’s back, forward…..back…..forward. A perfect 4/4. Like a metronome. I started tapping my foot. I stepped behind him, onto an old abandoned road. I looked into him as a mirror, and saw myself. “

click here for the rest and be sure to stay and discover other stories on her wonderfully haunting blog, Mysteries Internal.


The Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man’s Recreation, being a discourse on rivers, fish-ponds, fish and fishing.

In two parts: the first being written by Mr Izaak Walton, the second by Charles Cotton, Esq. from 1760

WoW, WoW, Wow and Wow !!! it’s absolutely amazing the things one can find when doing a Google search for camel dubbing…
here folks is 564 pages of fly fishing history right at the tip of your mouse. since i know a lot of you will be slacking during the holidays, here’s a way to put that time to good use.
enjoy !

i could be wrong but it seems to me that Walton’s grayling above has teeth. yikes ! :mrgreen:

click either pic to access the books, enjoy !

North Country Flies by T.E. Pritt

following up from last month’s blast from the past find: The Practical Angler by W.C. Stewart, here’s another treat from

originally titled Yorkshire Trout Flies, renamed and republished in 1886, North Country Flies remains a much sought after and hard to find reference book. lucky us, we can read, study and flip through the 97 pages of this book for free and without the dusty-moldy smells of the originals !
i’m not too crazy about his constant references of killing trout and grayling or referring to a fly as “A splendid killer” but there’s a lot to learn about fly design of the time and the specific materials used. interesting detail is these flies seem to represent the ‘new trend’ of hackled flies.

an added bonus for us fly-only fishers is a section in the back of the book on how to rig and fish worms upstream…  enjoy !

“It occurred to me, some three or four years ago, that there was again room in this great angling county for a book which should not only give the dressings and seasons of trout flies, but also add the best possible aid in the form of illustrations carefully and accurately coloured, in order to convey to the eye of the beholder correct impressions of size, shape, and colours of those artificial flies which experience has proved are best adapted to the Yorkshire waters.”

Stewart’s favourite colour appears to have been black.

 Stewart’s Spider

a few musings on North Country Spiders by W.C. Stewart

“Stewart’s favourite colour appears to have been black, his argument being that, in water, a fly between the fish and the light above is in silhouette, therefore colours are indistinctive, his opinion being that the movement of the hackle (legs) of the fly is the attraction, and this seems to make a lot of sense! Stewart also fiercely maintains that the fly dresser could never truly imitate nature and that Man’s interpretation of what a fly should look like can never ever be truly attained and I quote “Those anglers  who think trout will take no fly unless it is an exact imitation of some one of the immense number of flies they are feeding on, must suppose that they know to a shade the colour of every fly on the water, and can detect the least deviation from it – an amount of entomological knowledge that would put to shame the angler himself and a good many naturalists to boot”. 

i wonder if he ever considered transparency, refraction and diffraction, the understated elements in fly design.

photo and text source: Fishing with Style

The Jazzed-Up Cobra Contest ! Third Entry

today’s entry is by Erin Block. be sure to check out her fantastic blog page Mysteries Internal, a real gem.

My life was lived between lines far before the floating or sinking variety. They were staved lines; measured, and often also used in a 4/4 rhythm. I studied music (classical guitar) in college and I can still hear my professor asking…

“Can you feel the pulse?”

“I didn’t think so, because I can’t either.”

I would go home from lessons frustrated, almost always frustrated. Why couldn’t I feel it? I thought I had, but it obviously wasn’t the real thing — much like a first love. You think what you’re feeling is true, but in the end discover it isn’t.

So to train myself to feel, I would sing the melody line and listen for natural breaths and pauses. Listening for silence in noise. Looking for stationary in movement. And I would dance around the room, stomping my feet and letting my arms sway and swing however they liked – letting the music come out of me before I tried to put myself into it. This feeling and studying and looking for pulses now translates lines of another sort….fly lines.

As a fly fisherman, I still have to feel the pulse – of my fly line, my rod, the waters, and their trout. I cast, and the vibrations of my rod tell me whether it will be a good cast or not. I know even before it lays out. When it falls flat or tangles up, I still hear — you weren’t feeling the beat, were you. No. I wasn’t. Because when I can – when I pay attention and listen; especially, to the silence — my lines are smooth.

And when I stand for a second on the river’s bank, closing my eyes and letting the water’s sound envelop me, I feel like I’m dancing out lines of music again – letting the water come into me before I attempt to go into it. Then, I can feel its pulse – and then, I can wade into it, sure of its rhythm.