GFF book review
Matching Major Eastern HatchesNew Patterns for Selective Trout
Author: Henry Ramsay
Reviewed by Bob Petti The cover and title of a book serve two very important purposes. The first is obvious - to grab the attention of a potential buyer. The second - related to the first - is to set expectations. It should be a strong indicator what the reader will experience. Consider "Matching Major Eastern Hatches". The words that jump out at me are "major" and "eastern" - I am curious what the author considers a major hatch, and which watersheds are included in "eastern". Since most of my fishing is in the trout rivers of the Catskills, my attention is piqued. I expect to be able to learn something that I can directly apply to my own fishing. The subtitle "New Patterns for Selective Trout" gives me further clues - this is a fly tying book more than a fishing strategy book, and I am expecting to find original patterns and tying innovations. That is a pretty tall order, as the trout rivers of the Eastern US represent the birthplace of US fly fishing and their hatches have inspired fly tyers for a couple centuries. What more is there to say that hasn't already been said? Well, let's open the book and find out.
My first impression after a quick skim through the book is that it is chalk full of excellent photographs, whether they be of insects in various stages of their life cycle, beautiful rivers and their trout, or the steps to tying the hatch matching patterns. The fly tying steps are particularly impressive - close up, crystal clear, and appropriately detailed - but the photos of the insects are key here. We're supposed to be matching hatches - and it is important to know what those hatches should look like if we can evaluate how well the flies presented match them, right?
A quick reading of the introduction and a scan the photo captions tells me that "Eastern" in the author's experience is primarily Pennsylvania. I was hoping more of the book would be devoted to discussing the insect activities in the major eastern regions from North Carolina up through Maine - what I would consider "Eastern US" in the context of trout angling. It would be impossible to provide details every watershed's favorite hatch, of course - it's a book not an encyclopedia - but since most of the anecdotes in the book are Pennsylvania based, I would have suggested a title change or a few tales from other places. A handful of pages listing the significant watersheds and a summary of their major hatches, with a few words the reader could use to extrapolate the book's information to their home waters, would help create a stronger bond with a wider audience.
Each chapter after the introduction focuses on either a specific hatch ("The Sulphur Hatch", "The Beatis Olive Hatch"), or a fly pattern that can be adjusted to match multiple hatches ("The Swimming Caddis Pupa" and "The Emerging Dun") by choice of color of material. A common format is used throughout - an extended summary of the topic, a step-by-step procedure for tying the pattern, and when appropriate a depiction of finished flies intended to match specific hatches. As mentioned previously - the supporting photography is top notch.
Are the flies original and innovative, as I was expecting based on the subtitle? I guess the best answer is yes and no. Take the chapter on Marino's thorax dun. Which is the innovation - Marinaro's development or Ramsay's substitution of a different wing material and a simplification in the hackling procedure? As stated earlier, these insects have been collected, studied, imitated, and argued over for a very long time. A new variant of a thorax dun might not make you slap your forehead and holler "why didn't I think of that?", but it also shouldn't make you roll your eyes and dismiss the contributions of Henry Ramsay. Most of the patterns shown here are alterations to existing patterns, which is what fly tyers have been doing since - well since the beginning. We learn and we adapt to our situation - that is what we all do. Henry Ramsay has given us a peak inside his fly box and shared with us his rationale for how and why he made his adjustments. To a fly tyer, that is pure gold. I would be willing to bet that people who tie the flies shown in this book will apply even further refinement and adjustment, making them personal.
The "eastern" trout angler will enjoy this book. It is chock full of good ideas, sound angling theory, and easily digestible fly tying concepts. It's not an "elbows and arseholes" entomology book, but neither does it have a "just fish a green one" level of simplicity. There are flies in here that I will try. That is always the best thing a fellow fly tyer can say about a book like this.
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