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The Fly Fisher's Playbook
Don't let the 4/5 rating fool you. Sticking true to the GFF rating system, the book is good and useful for its intended purpose and just may be the ticket you need to retool your bad fly fishing habits.
Right out of the gate you get a sense this book isn't meant for the fly fisher who views fly fishing as a weekend recreation. Or for the streamer addict. Or for the dry fly purist. This book is for the serious-minded nymphing-oriented angler wishing to dissect, analyze and improve his or her technique.
Author Duane R. Redford, a former high school football coach and former scout for the Cincinnati Reds, applies his skills breaking down the weaknesses in his opponents and transfers them to the art of fly fishing - the goal being to catch more fish. The Fly Fisher's Playbook isn't a pre-written guide, but instead it lays out the thinking and guidelines to help the reader develop his or her own personal approach, or "playbook" as Coach Redford implies.
The book is a quick read, comprised of 133 total black & white pages with 40 black & white photos and illustrations. It is a P.O.D. book - print on demand. The full-color cover is adorned with a rather substandard pixelated photograph of a fly fisher landing a fish, but for a thin paperback POD book which retails for $19.99, the cover can be overlooked, although you know what is said about a book and its' cover.
Redford starts with a quick overview of nymphing equipment basics, making a clear point that his journal has become his playbook. He records fishing conditions, flies used, hatches and fish caught among other elements. The core thesis of the book starts with chapter 2, where Redford suggests to fish to your strengths and learn to scout yourself for weaknesses. But scouting yourself can be difficult, so he offers a few nifty tips on how to do that - read the book to find out how!
The remainder of the book walks through how to develop and fish a basic nymph rig, how to survey a fish's defense, reading water, how to break down the water and nymph it, managing the drift, looking for clues as to what the fish are eating,
Every guide has their schtick, or approach, to helping newcomers and eager learners of fly fishing. It's clear playbooks are a way of life for Redford, more aptly put - a way of thinking for him and are more intuitive to him as he approaches problems and relays observations to clients. I find I don't need to impose the sports playbook concept to grasp what Redford writes. At times, the playbook construct muddies the message, adding only a layer of complication to an otherwise clear thought he carefully lays out. The concepts presented in the book are common amongst all fly fishing instructional books: nymph rigging, gear choices, reading the river, basic casting physics, riverside entomology, etc. He does a crisp job of breaking down the no-frills essentials necessary to become a better fly fisher and his chapter summaries of key points are essentially a self-test to make sure you have taken away the key messages he lays out in each chapter. It's clear that a day on the stream with Redford would be worth ten times what you paid, and maybe a combination of reading his book and spending a day on the water with him putting concept into practice is the perfect combination for a learning fly fisher.
What separates his approach over others is his emphasis of not only taking the time to read the water and observe conditions around you as you fish, but to observe YOURSELF to learn your particular habits and learn to correct those that may not be supportive of catching more fish. This is the single-most important message the book delivers. While the book may not be for everyone, for those who want to examine themselves as a fly fisher in a more detailed and systematic way, this book will give you the constructs to do so. True to his coaching pedigree, it isn't about teaching the plays, it is about teaching the players.