The Orvis Fly Tying Guide
"Now there are hundreds of fly-tying books in print. Why do we need another one? This is the book I would have wanted when I started."
- Tom Rosenbauer
Those are some big words. What's true is that there are hundreds of fly-tying books available to the beginning fly tyer, along with almost as many web sites (ahem), videos, cd-roms, and even magazines devoted to tying flies.
Where does this book fit in with all that?
Tom's right. This is the book to start with. This is the book to buy if you've never tied a fly. Tom makes no assumptions about the reader's knowledge base or level of skill, other than believing the reader has yet to affix thread to a hook for the purposes of tying a fly. He literally starts at square one.
In the section aptly named "The Basics", Tom starts off with such fundamentals as finding a good place in the house to tie flies, where to store your stuff, how to place a hook in the jaws of a vise, and how to start your thread on the hook. Literally - the beginnings of fly tying.
He goes on to describe several techniques for tying materials to a hook, such as "the pinch" and "the gravity loop with upward pull". It is clear that Tom's intent is to provide complete coverage of the basic fundamentals of fly tying, to set the stage for more advanced techniques. He pulls it off with no shortage of clear color photographs that illustrate each step described and easily understood text in Tom's conversational tone.
He goes on to talk about tools and materials, as you might guess in a book of this nature. While the text is excellent, if I have one complaint about this area is the digitally reproduced images from the Orvis fly tying catalog. As I first flipped through the book, a few of these images stood out and made me scratch my head, wondering what was wrong. It wasn't until I read in the acknowledgements that I realized these were not original photos but rather digital reproductions of the images in the catalog. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. The image of squirrel tails and deer hair strips is bizarre. Why they would cut this corner, I haven't a clue. With the number of high quality color photos found elsewhere in the book, I can't imagine how much money could be saved here.
The middle portion of the book deals with tying instructions for specific fly patterns. The intent here is not teach a person how to tie every fly known to man, but to offer a variety of techniques that will help a person tie a number of different flies. As Tom admits, his choice of flies is based on what flies are most popular (being associated with Orvis, he probably has a good idea of which flies sell more than others), while offering a good cross section of tying skills. Most of the flies are oriented toward the trout fisherman in spite of the fact there is a chapter devoted to saltwater flies.
Here again, there is no shortage of information or clear photographs to guide the tyer through a number of patterns of different types. Every step is described in detail, and the photos are clear and relevant to the instructions provided.
The third and final section of the book is a pattern listing. This isn't a random sampling of flies, but rather pattern listings for the flies in the Orvis catalog. No kidding. One of my earliest fly tying books was one of the Orvis Pattern Index books. Tom's verstion takes that concept and kicks it up a notch, with beautiful photos and many new and updated patterns.
I've learned that this book is available separately or as part of a fly tying kit complete with tools and materials. A beginning fly tyer could do worse than to get this kit and work through the flies Tom describes. Not only will you come away with a basic understanding of fly tying and some necessary skills, you will also have tied up some very effective fishing flies.
The Orvis Fly Tying Guide continues the tradition of Orvis "guide" books aimed at helping those new to the sport get a head start on a lifetime of learning. Tom has done the company proud by producing an excellent introduction to fly tying, as well as offering us old salts the recipes of some of the latest and greatest flies coming out of the inventive minds of tyers around the world.