Japanese author, angler and fly-tyer Ken Sawada is an odd character... not meant in any insulting way at all, but more like an expression of my admiration. Sawada has been around almost as long as I have been fly-fishing and fly-tying, and particularly his beautiful salmon flies have always been favorites of mine. Whenever his name comes up, there's always something interesting going on. He seems to be a person who does things in his own way, but still respects tradition and history.
His flies are always exquisitely tied and photographed with great care and craft, mostly showing them in Sawada's signature style: extremely saturated on a deep black background with every detail showing in almost painful sharpness.
This book listing 400 classic wet flies is full of such pictures. All the classics minutely tied and photographed with an accompanying materials list, more than detailed enough to enable you to tie the fly. Furthermore there's a large section in the back of the book, covering several flies in detail with step-by-step images and tips on each step and material. So not only do we have a very thorough reference on wet flies, but also a great instructional book on how to tie them.
One caption literally says "hackle priers" and not pliers
As is the case in most of Sawada's books the text is written in both Japanese and English. I don't know if Sawada writes in or translates to English himself, but no matter what the result is kind of peculiar, and sometimes even funny. One caption literally says "hackle priers" and not pliers, as if it was written as a ironic mocking of the typical Japanese accent. Most of the English is easy to read and understand, but pretty strangely written and bound to bring a smile on your face now and then.
But the text cannot take away the impression of a really useful and beautiful book, which will make any wet fly fan drool and most fly-tyers lift their eyebrows and the quality of the flies and the photos.
The book is from 1995 but still available as new from several sources. The cover price in 1995 was 3800 Yen, which translates to 40 USD, 25 GBP or about 29 Euros, quite surprisingly close to the actual price of the book today. I paid 25 GBP for my copy, which I bought in the online shop of Coch-y-Bondhu books.
Sawada has a web site that sells fly-tying materials, hooks and other fly-fishing related items, but also features articles and tying instructions and literally thousands of patterns. Much is in Japanese, but some is in English, and for those not fluent in Japanese, there's always Google Translate.