Published Mar 14. 2018 - 5 years ago
Updated or edited Aug 12. 2018

Book review: ABU Optic Flies

Tying and fishing the ABU Optic Flies

A small book written by Danish Michael Jensen about Swedish ABU's renown series of streamers from the 60's, known as the Optic Flies.

Michael Jensen
Self published
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

I like to dig into the history of flies, but unlike many of those with a historic interest, I don't look at the true classics like the flies originated by Traherne or Kelson. Most of these flies are well documented and have been studied and researched by so many people that there's hardly anything new to discover.
No, I like to look into more contemporary flies. Flies from the 1900's, and even from this century. Flies whose originators are often still alive, flies that are still widely used in practical fishing, and flies whose history is badly documented and often totally obscured by "alternative facts" found in modern digital publications, on social media and even in printed books and magazines.
For the same reason, I love it when other people do the same thing: take up a pattern or a tying style of recent development, and dig into its past, thoroughly researching sources, contacting people who know and uncovering the real truth about these flies.
In that respect Michael Jensen's book is a feast! It's the history of a series of flies, previously only vaguely familiar to me, devised back in the 60's by the Swedish company ABU, mainly known as a reel maker, but also famous for making rods, lures – and in this case – flies.

Like many other Scandinavian kids interested in fishing, I spent hours and hours with my nose deeply dug into the magazine/catalog combo "Napp & Nytt" (known as "Tight Lines" in English), which was published by ABU. It was a boy's dream of gear and fishing stories, and the Optic Flies were first marketed in this magazine.
Michael Jensen accounts vividly from his own meeting with the flies in Napp & Nytt, and has spent quite a lot of time and even money – buying original flies – in his effort to unveil the origins and history of the flies. He has been in contact with some of the people originally involved in the production, and has collected all this knowledge in the book at hand.

Optic Flies, pages
Optic Flies, pages
Pages from Optic Flies
Michael Jensen

Over the course of its almost 100 pages we get the background, his personal history with the flies, their origin and a complete coverage of all the 25 flies in the series. On top of that we get an in-depth step-by-step instruction for eight of the flies, with detailed photos. All the flies come with complete material lists and a beautiful photo of the finished fly.
The book is littered with excellent pictures shot by Michael himself, a photographer by trade, all presented in a nice layout made by his partner Ulla Halkjær.
The flies range from the "true" Optic streamers – the classic hair winged ones with bead chain eyes – over some variations tied on tubes to some really great looking keel flies. Even the likewise classic Chillimps, a hackle fly, here tied with bead chain eyes, has sneaked in. All these were sold by ABU as part of the very successful Optic Flies series.

Altogether the book is a smorgasbord for streamer aficionados, listing the original patterns for a series of very popular and once very widespread flies.
Both text and presentation is captivating, making it a pleasure to read through, and the book is quickly devoured, leaving you with an immediate lust to go to the vise and crank out some streamers. These flies are universal, and would easily be able to catch fish all over the globe: trout, salmon, bass, perch and many more, even saltwater species like sea trout, stripers and some of the many tropical dish pursued by flyfishermen.
They simply look so fishy!

My only smaller grudge with the book is that it's pretty obvious that it was written by a non-native English speaker/writer. There are some odd commas, minor spelling errors and a bit of convoluted syntax in a few places. Nothing that will distract you from the joy of reading the book, but something that had been pretty easy to prune in a proof reading process. Apart from that, the book is really great. A book that should be in the bookshelf over the tying table of any streamer tyer who wants inspiration for some great patterns – and some history to boot.


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