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Tying Heritage Featherwing Streamers
Sharon Wright is becoming a familiar name to those who follow developments in streamer fly tying. She has been a guest tyer at most of the major fly tying events in the Northeast USA, has authored several magazine articles on the subject, and now is releasing her first book "Tying Heritage Featherwing Streamers" on Stackpole Books.
A native of Maine (a "Maine-ah", as they say), with a lengthy family history filled with outdoorsmen of note, she has a different perspective on streamers than most people - it is not only a fascinating and pleasant way to catch fish - but there is a deep personal connection.
What sparked her to write this book was the frustration she encountered while trying to learn how to tie these flies. From her perspective - no single source of information was complete. "I did a lot of digging and reading and deciphering, and then I decided to ask for help from some of the folks who tie and fish these flies. I asked each one why nobody had written a book on how to tie Rangeley Streamers that was a complete tutorial from A to Z. Most of them told me they were too busy fishing to write a book." Her goal with "Tying Heritage Featherwing Streamers" is to create that all-encompassing tutorial that new fly tyers can use to developer their skills.
Thus, after the a brief overview of streamer history, she dives right in with what has become a controversial section of the book - a dissection of an authentic Carrie Stevens streamer. Some have taken issue with the fact that she did not make mention of prior dissection efforts, but if you read the text, nowhere did the book make a claim that this was the first dissection of one of Carrie's flies - only that it was something she felt the need do herself to witness the "untying" with her own eyes. Perhaps she probably should have edited out the statement that Mrs Steven's methods "were no longer a mystery". They haven't been a mystery for many years.
The book continues with a good discussion of materials, although I would have hoped for more specifics on things such as hook models. Since Allcock 1810's are no longer available (other than the ridiculously priced used market), she should have offered modern substitutes. After all - this was supposed to be an A to Z tutorial. Finding the right hook is the first order a business, right? I was also a little surprised at the short attention paid to bucktail. Next to hackles, bucktail will be the second most frustrating component of tying streamers. Choosing a tail that is too coarse, or too short, or with hair that is too kinky and curly will cause nothing but failure and frustration. I would have hoped for a far more serious treatment of the humble bucktail - having the right tail makes a world of difference.
The remainder of the book is a mix of how-to instructional chapters on tying featherwing streamers, and gallery pages of streamer patterns. The final chapter - a gallery of flies from other tyers - is nearly half the book. While Ms Wright has her own distinct tying style, the other contributors show a wide range of skills and styles, from modern artistic flies to relatively authentic recreations of the classics. Each fly is shown in a crisp full color photograph with supporting text - two flies per page. The gallery is very well done.
A few niggling points about the book. It does not have a bibliography. Ms Wright alluded to all the reading and research she did trying to learn to tie these flies. A list of sources would be helpful for new people trying to follow her path. Yes her goal was to write the complete tutorial - but the original books are always worth tracking down - and a listing is sources is always a good idea. Also - there were numerous opportunities for her to call out the people who helped her learn to tie, but their names were strikingly absent. I noticed one technique in the Rangeley tutorial that is the hallmark of a well-known tyer and I think a shout out would have been appropriate. As it is - the book is written in the first person perspective and many opportunities to honor her teachers were missed.
Did she accomplish her goal of creating a comprehensive "A to Z tutorial" for tying Rangeley style featherwing streamers? Perhaps. I would say that one of her mentors - David Klausmeyer - wrote an equally good tutorial on tying streamers in 2004. What Ms Wright has added is her own style of tying, a detailed Carrie Stevens deconstruction, and a few more personal hints and tips on how to handle and prepare the materials used in these flies. Both books feature galleries of flies from contributors - and both are beautifully packaged and photographed. I guess streamer junkies like myself are living the good life these days.