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Essential Skills - 6 volumes
I first heard of - or rather saw - Oliver Edwards videos on a cd that was packaged with the British magazine Fly Fishing & Fly Tying. The cd featured some short cuts from the six tapes. I was shown the video snippets on a computer screen by a friend, and was already at that point impressed and intrigued.
When my VHS copies arrived one afternoon I broke the seal of the top one - not the first as such, as there seemed to be no obvious sequence - and stuck it in my VCR. And I was spellbound. I saw two complete videos that afternoon. And I was supposed to have worked -
Later the same day a fellow fly fishing friend came over. I dropped a third cassette in the slot and we sat there and watched, both equally captivated and blissful. Since then I have shown the videos to several fishing friends, and the reactions are typically the same as mine.
These videos are the best fly tying and fly fishing videos I have ever seen, period!
The combination of Edwards' knowledgeable instructions spoken in his charming Yorkshire dialect combined with the excellent production, photography and cutting makes every minute of these videos worth watching.
The set up is basically as we know it from countless videos:
Man presents program in nice setting by water.
Said man sits in homely locations and ties a fly or two, telling us how to.
Said flies are then brought to the water by said man, that catches fish and tells us how to.
So why are these so much better?
Well, first of all Edwards is good.
Not only is he, as many might know, an extraordinarily good fly tier and instructor, but he is also and excellent fisherman.
But first and foremost is he an extremely entertaining and pleasantly knowledgeable person to listen to - even during six videotapes of an hour or more each. And the settings are beautiful as are the fish Edwards catches.
The flies are his best patterns, skilfully and elegantly tied - albeit left handed and clockwise (visualise that for just one moment!), which some might find confusing at first even though a front shot will show the tying steps exactly as a right hand tier would see it tying at his or her own vice.
Despite the fact that Oliver Edwards is most known for his very complex and lifelike imitations, these flies seem like something most of us could overcome. Mind you, there are many tying steps in most of them, but the instructions are clear, and the photography is very explanatory with great extreme close ups as well as shots of hands and the full table top.
And Edwards' and the instructor take their time to show the intricate details. If a bug has six legs, there is no showing one leg, and poof, we are done with the last. No, no. Each leg gets its attention, and we learn the routine by seeing it repeated.
Luckily the variation of patterns over the tapes is great: from Edwards' own undeniably complicated Heptagenid Nymph and Mohican Mayfly with numerous materials and dozens of tying steps to Frank Saywer's absolute counterparts: The Killer Bug and Phesant Tail Nymph - each consisting of only two materials.
Having tied the flies, simple or complex, Edwards ventures to a selected stream to fish them. And what scenery! All the classic types of British waters - even Saywer's home waters on the Upper Avon. Edwards goes quickly through rod selection and onto leader; an element he repeatedly (and rightfully) stresses for all the types of fishing he demonstrates.
And then he fishes; slowly and patiently shows how to use the particular flies of that tape for the particular method he wants to illustrate.
He tells us how to find the likely spots, see the fish and place yourself and the fly. He shows rights and wrongs and explains exactly what he is doing all through the process. And he catches fish, and quite a few too, always calmly telling what he is doing and why, and never yelling and hollering like it is heard on so many other fishing videos. He stays calm even though the toughest fight, shows how to tire, land a release the fish, and proceeds on to the next one.
All in good order, all very charming and very entertaining. Believe me, Edwards' small comments are sometimes very witty, and the spice of his dialect makes them no less entertaining.
Each tape has its theme with accompanying patterns. The six volumes cover:
Materials for the patterns are listed on the inside of the cover, or in one case - Czech nymphing - in a small booklet in the box. In this case the inside sports a small story about how Edwards came to know about the technique.
If you have any interest in stream fishing and want more than six hours of instructive video, these videos cannot be recommended highly enough. Even at a price of 19 UKÂ£ or 30 US$ they are worth the money.
The videos have since this review was first published been made available on DVD, enabling the viewer to get even better quality and go directly to any scene.