Published Aug 30. 2019 - 4 years ago
Updated or edited Apr 8. 2023

Book review: America’s Favorite Flies

Impressing in both scope, size, page count and weight, this book presents 224 US fly tyers and their favorite patterns.

Rob Carter and John Bryan
Publishing year: 
US$ (it was half that price on the book's web site at one point)
Reviewed by: 

This book came out some time ago, in 2017, actually. Books this size literally don’t move fast, and once I got my eyes on it, it became apparent that getting a copy across the Atlantic within my budget would take some fiddling.
But it arrived at last, not least thanks to to GFF partner Bob Petti.
I had read the first impressions from people on social media and elsewhere online. One recurring thing was that the book was big.
And it is. Like huge and heavy. Impressing.
We’re talking large format, 656 pages on good quality paper, more than 3 kilos or 6.6 lbs. Impressing.
It shares favorite patterns from 224 US fly tyers, some famous, some well known, some less so. Still impressing.
So, with all that initial impression, how is it actually? When you go into detail?
The book is split in two major sections and a smaller one: the first third and then some consists of pages with single flies, photographed and printed, one on each page, in very revealing detail. This section is a feast for any angler or fly tyer, and the names of the person who selected the fly make a pretty impressive list. It’s alphabetical, and one prominent name after the other pops up. Most of the flies are well tied, some are beautiful, but many are so-so, and a few are downright ugly, badly tied, not well proportioned and really exposed in the huge format. There have probably been reasons for including them, and I respect that, but I have to say that I prefer well tied flies as illustrations in books – especially when the format is as it is here… revealing as I said.
This visual first section is only the appetizer, because after this follows some interstitial essays of various length and subject, which offer some great and varied reading.
The rest of the book is the story of the flies in the first section, as told by the people who selected them – and in many cases also originated and tied them.

Update September 2019: The book is now available at half the original price from this site.
August 2019: Unfortunately the book seems to be unavailable right now.
December 2020: The book is again available at a discounted price of less than 75 USD and free shipping.
I'll try to follow up on availability, and link to a source as soon as one appears.
Great flies
Martin Joergensen

The innocent bystander – say, in the form of a non-fishing guest who finds the book on your table – might be in awe over the initial photos, which are impressing and nice to look at. As an added visual bonus, there are pages with beautiful art spread out in this section. Paintings, drawing and photos by a number of very good artists.
As overwhelming as the photo section is, I still find that it’s way overshadowed by the stories. This is where the real gold can be found. For the interested and enthusiastic fly fisherman and fly tyer, the proof of the pudding is in the reading, if you’ll pardon my rephrasing of the saying.
Each person is represented with text and images – and a reprint of the fly, and maybe a couple more patterns. Each person gets the space needed. Some are presented in a short take, like half a page, while some fill up several pages. Some have written longer texts, almost small essays, and some have hardly written anything at all. There’s tips on fishing, thoughts on flies, water, environment, the community and of course fishing. There’s a bio of each person, briefly recapping their life and claim to fame… if any. The way it’s presented and structured makes it an almost endless journey through the American community of fly anglers and tyers. There are also a few celebrities, but their story and motivation for their selection is equally interesting. On each new page you see pictures, find interesting facts, get to know the person a bit and can simply browse through and take in and digest the contents in small bits.

Flies and people
Flies and people
Martin Joergensen
Martin Joergensen

I have spent quite a bit of time leafing through these pages, and have kept on finding little nuggets, facts I didn’t know, flies I wanted to tie. I found plenty people I hadn’t heard of before as well as some I knew, and of them, quite a few I have met.
This is a great reading book, and if it weren’t for the size, it would make perfect bedtime reading. You could simply find a handful of anglers to read about before falling a sleep and – hopefully – dream about some nice flies and some excellent fishing. But it’s not a bedtime book. The physical size makes it hard to even sit with the book in the lap, and it basically requires a table to read. I certainly don’t consider this a bad thing, but just a thing to take note of. Like many large pattern books, putting this on your tying table will probably mean that something else has to go.

Since the book lists all the entries alphabetically, there’s no index to the names, and the flies just appear in the sequence they do following the person. So finding a person is a question of going A-B-C... Once the fly is found, there’s a reference to the text section. Finding a fly requires quite a lot more page turning. I would have loved to see a proper index as well as a full list of tyers and flies with page references. There are some appendices with artists, essayists and even a small section with examples of the charming letters received by the authors from some of the tyers.
So, as you can imagine in a book this size, there’s hours and hours of entertainment and adventure, and lots of material to return to again and again.

hours and hours of entertainment and adventure


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