GFF book review
Classic Salmon Fly PatternsOver 1700 Patterns from the Golden Age of Tying
Author: Michael D. Randencich
Reviewed by Bob Petti To borrow from Jerry Maguire, you had me at 1700 patterns.
One thousand seven hundred patterns. Chew on that for awhile.
This book could have been printed with smeared blue ink on newsprint using a vintage 1970's mimeograph machine and it would be worth the cover price.
After two pages of introduction there 300 plus of patterns and photographs, those photographs taken by the author who has established his bona fides in such books as "Tying the Classic Salmon Fly", "Classic Salmon Fly Materials", and "Twenty Salmon Flies".
The patterns are drawn from all the classic salmon fly authors - Francis Francis, T.E. Pryce-Tannatt, Kelson, Hale, on and on. All of the old books are represented here - a more comprehensive list of flies is unimaginable. Seeing as how many of those books are extremely rare, nearly impossible to find even when modern reprints were made, and obviously expensive when a copy is located, Radencich and his cadre of tyers have done a great service to the fly tying community.
The book is organized in the most basic way - alphabetically. Want to find a Lady Caroline? Flip to "L" and there you go. Simple. I like it. It may have been tempting to organize them by book or by style, but how many times have I cracked open a book looking for a particular fly only to have to turn to the index. This whole book is an index! It's amazing.
Not every fly has a photo, nor was every fly shown tied by the author. The contributors span the spectrum from noted professionals to accomplished amateurs. I recognize several names, but just as many I had never heard of which is a great treat. I like learning of new fly tyers - especially of the caliber on display here. While it is true that not every pattern has a matching photograph, it's not like the book is lacking. I did not count them all, but the inside cover suggests over 1000 photographs are included. I believe it. There are plenty of full page "posed" shots of flies in Radencich's style, and the pattern pages average 5 or so photographs per page.
Each pattern lists the tyer, the hook used, the source for the pattern, the pattern itself, and often a color photograph of a finished fly to serve as an example. The style of tying varies - some sleek, sparse and fishable, others full and artistic, and still others with bunched or mixed wing style that seems to be popular these days. I don't know what, if any, instructions the author provided to his contributing tyers, but clearly they had permission to apply their own personal styles and techniques. I would hope the people who use this book for their own tying follow suit. Tie flies as you want to tie them - don't feel the need to create clones of someone else's idea of how a fly should be.
What might be overlooked - or undervalued - is how the patterns themselves have been translated into modern fly tying language. Not all of the old authors used the same terminology to describe their flies, their language was sometimes hard to decipher, and it could be argued that some were intentionally vague in hopes of advancing the business of gillies and professional tyers. Radencich has documented these old patterns using modern terms - which must have been a massive effort.
This isn't a reading book, nor is it a coffee table book. It's a reference book for fly tyers interested in salmon flies. The best one that has been done to date.
That would have been enough for me, but there's more. Glued to the inside back cover is a DVD of the author tying a Durham Ranger which is one of the most famous and beautiful salmon flies of all time. As you would expect, it is professionally done (the DVD - although the fly is as well). The DVD could sell standalone for $25 easily - probably more.
I don't like to toss around the "must have" phrase very often, but for a fly tyer who is serious about salmon flies, I believe this book qualifies. Global class? Oh yeah.
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