Published Feb 11. 2003 - 19 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 13. 2015

Book review: A Fly Fisher's Reflections

John Goddard
The Lyons Press
Publishing year: 
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A compilation of articles and essays from one of the finest trout fishermen in the world.

It has been said that in the world of fly fishing, there is precious little new to say. The conventional wisdom is that most of what is written and said is the regurgitation of long established ideas, sometimes bent with a subtle twist to make them appear new. Have we gotten to the point where new books are published that are simply a compilation of older works?

This theory is put to the ultimate test with the release of the latest book by John Goddard, A Fly Fisher's Reflections, since it is a compilation of his many magazine articles and essays published between the mid 1960's and the present day. Presented essentially unchanged from their original form, will these articles feel dated to today's readers?

To be sure, reading through each essay reinforces the point that many modern innovations are simple variations of what has been long known. Even so, I would have appreciated a bit of a "side bar" for each of Mr. Goddard's articles to offer up his current thoughts on the topics. For example, I would be interested in knowing if the flies described in "New and Effective Fly Designs, 1968" are still among his favorites, or if they have evolved into something else. If the latter - to what? Surely the patterns as described would still be effective in today's fishing, but am I to believe that no improvements have been made in the subsequent 35 years? Again, in "The Killing Must Stop, 1985", I am left wondering if, in fact, the killing did stop, and if so, what is the current state of affairs? Certainly the chapter "The Curse of the Smutting Trout, 1987" could be updated, since there have been some true innovations in the realm of midge fly design and tackle since it was published. Then again, reading an article like "A Caddis For All Waters, 1990", which sheds some light on how the G&H Sedge became known as the Goddard Caddis, will make for fascinating reading now as much as when it was first published.

Just when you begin to be frustrated with such unasked and unanswered questions, you happen upon a timeless piece such as "To Grease or Not To Grease, 1975". While the composition of floatants and "sink" agents may change from time to time, their use and their necessity has changed very little. In fact, remove the date and the mention of specific products that may no longer be available, this article would be quite welcome in the next issue of your favorite fly fishing magazine. The same can be said of "Who Needs Barbed Hooks, 1980", and "Play Them Hard, and Play Them By Hand, 1980".

Of course, the true timeless passages of this book are the stories of angling around the world. John takes us to rivers, streams, and oceans around the globe, sharing his adventures along the way. The tales are fascinating - and purely timeless. Sure - maybe you need to overlook specific prices and directions (I bet a guide in New Zealand charges more than 75 pounds today) - but the essence of the articles remains pure. These articles, in fact, are made somewhat more entertaining by their dated nature. Mr. Goddard certainly seems to have been there and done that!

I have for a few years heard references to John Goddard as one of the finest trout fisherman in the entire world. Coming from men like Lefty Kreh, that is high praise indeed, so my curiosity was running high when I saw this book. Not only did I learn more about trout fishing, I learned more about Mr. Goddard and why so many consider him such a gifted angler. Given that the essays in the book span more than three decades, we might conclude that this is Mr. Goddard's magnum opus - his life's work. If so, he has reason to be proud.


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