GFF book review

Fly Fishing for Striped Bass

Wow. Another magnum opus from the publishers of "A Passion for Steelhead". This book is thick, heavy, and just chock full of striped bass know how. It is a truly impressive book.

Author: Rich Murphy
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Rich Murphy
Fly Fishing for Striped Bass
Wild River Press, 2007

GFF rating: 6 out of 7
Global Class

Reviewed by Bob Petti

All it took was one quick skim through this book for me to come up with the theme of my review.

"I'm not worthy!"

Really. I don't think I am. Wow.

Wild River Press, the publisher behind this and a few other new books, is setting the bar extremely high for the genre of fly fishing information books, where the author doesn't offer a quick overview - a "101" class - but rather an in depth master's course. "Fly Fishing for Striped Bass" continues that trend, and in doing so kicks it up a notch. The author simply blew my socks off. I don't know if I know that much detail about anything, nor do I think if I did, I could write it down with such clarity!

Since I really don't feel qualified to offer an informed opinion on the text, I'll rather offer an overview of the book.

First, as with the other books from Wild River Press, you get a very high quality book for your money. It is visually stunning, chock full of full color photographs that leap off the page. The layout of the text, and the way the chapters are introduced, leave you with the impression that nothing was spared in putting the book together. The graphics and artwork, the fonts used in the text, even the weight of the paper - all top shelf. The "packaging" of the book matches the quality of the text. Bravo, Wild River Press. Well done.

The first chapter, "Sax", gives us a sort of day in the life of mature wild striped bass.

"She is the queen of her world. But sovereignty was not her birthright. She usurped it from fate by surviving a constant stream of mortal challanges that started as soon as she emerged from the ruptured chorion of her eggshell 22 years ago."

As you would expect, most of Sax's day is spent chasing food. I've read other pieces like this and I find them endlessly fascinating. The chapter does an excellent job of giving the reader an appreciation of the fish, and it sets the stage well for the chapters that follow.

Of course, there will be a chapter on striped bass biology, and that follows the first chapter as it should, since the knowledge of the fish's biology - what it eats, how it eats, where it eats, how it finds foods - is required to appreciate the flies, tackle, and fishing techniques that follow later on. As a trout fisherman, this sort of knowledge is very welcoming, as the foundation of trout fishing is based on the understanding of trout as predators, and clearly the foundation for striped bass fishing - all fishing - follows that same route.

A striped bass is a migratory fish that spends most of its life either looking for food, shelter, or a place to spawn. Like salmon fishing, fishing for striped bass is a game of "right place at the right time", and the third chapter, "Life On The Run", helps us understand bass movement along North America's coastal waterways. I live close to the Hudson River in New York, which gets a good run of striped bass every spring, but I had no idea the extent to which these bass move on an yearly basis, nor did I understand the triggers that spark the annual runs.

At this point, the book turns toward traditional topics of flies, tackle, and tactics. I have seen a lot of "RM" flies in magazines before, but here we get to see these Rich Murphy flies in rich detail, along with the naturals they are created to imitate. Each fly is wonderfully photographed and is accompanied by the pattern recipe, a small box of tying notes, and lots and lots of supporting text. For fly tyers, this chapter is pure fun. It is such a joy to read a fly tyer's thoughts about the flies they design and how they are intended to be used.

The chapter on tackle is huge! I can't think of a single topic that is not addressed, whether it be the appropriate rod and reel, the leader design, or even proper footwear. There is even a section on the history of tackle used for striped bass fishing. How surprised was I to see a lengthy section on the use of a double handed rod for beach fishing? How cool is that? Not only does Rich describe the appropriate tackle, he delves into the reasons why it is appropriate, and the where's and how's of its use.

The final chapters of the book are tactical - dealing with the different fishing situations that occur in striped bass fishing. The big four - beaches, estuaries, rocks, and flats, are all considered in great detail, with supporting graphics to enhance the text and photos. This is no different than the descriptions of fishing for trout in riffles, runs, pools, and flats, but on an oceanic scale. I've been on some beaches in Maine that are miles long, so it's not like you can just blind cast your way from one end to the other like you may be able to do in a trout stream, hoping to luck into a fish. Well - I supposed you could - but I bet your arm would be pretty sore after awhile. Knowing how to locate fish in such a huge area is critical, and then when finding them figuring out how to approach and cast to them, and what flies to use, is just as important. Same as trout fishing - just different. And bigger.

I don't know Rich Murphy, but if I met him I would want to shake his hand and ask him - "Where did that all come from?". This is a very impressive book, and while the cover price might seem a bit steep for a fishing book - for the content inside it is a bargain. Every time I look at the book, I shake my head in amazement. Rich - well done.

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User comments
From: Will Aubut · raaubut·at·  Link
Submitted June 26th 2011

I received a signed copy of your new book, Fly Fishing for Striped Bass yesterday June 25th, that you gave to my son Chris Aubut, at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlboro MA. I want to thank you and appreciate your kind gesture, it is a beautiful book and will be a great addition to my library in Florida
Thanks Again
Will Aubut

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