Published Dec 11. 2005 - 16 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 13. 2015

Book review: Bassin with a Fly Rod

Jack Ellis
The Lyons Press
Reviewed by: 

When I first read "Bassin' with a Fly Rod", I knew that I had found a book to my liking when I read this passage:

Those subsurface fly fishing systems that we hear about today - sinking lines with buoyant flies and similar systems - make interesting reading and sell fishing tackle. But such notions are based on an idealistic perception of bass fishing and usually prove to be woefully deficient in actual practice, often frustrating and discouraging would-be bass fly fishers.

Those words rang true to me, because I've read the articles about some of these bass tactics, and I've tried them, and I've been that frustrated would-be bass fly fisher. I took comfort in reading about how it's ok to save my fly rod for those times when it makes most sense to be fly fishing. Not only that, but I got the sense that this was a book written by a guy who really fishes for bass - and has done so for quite some time. I'm sure you've all read articles or books by authors who, when you're done reading, you wonder if they've ever actually caught a fish. His credibility in my eyes went up drastically with those words.

The book contains all the classic information you would want from a book devoted to fly fishing for bass - the classic "bass bug" tactics, a chapter devoted to finding bass in different types of water, and a chapter devoted to fishing bass through the different seasons, but what separates this book from so many others are two chapters - one dealing with the history of fly fishing for bass, and one dealing with "bassin'" with a fly rod.

In a chapter titled "The Way it Was", Jack presents a very well researched history of fly fishing for bass, starting with Dr. Henshalls ground breaking book "Book of the Black Bass" published in the 1880's and going through Dave Whitlock's work to revitalize the sport in the 70's. This is really fascinating reading, as most fly fishers come from a trout background and have never been exposed to some of the personalities mentioned.

The other chapter that separates "Bassin' with a Fly Rod" from other fly fishing books is titled "None Dare Call it Fly Fishing", where he knows he is going to upset the purists who feel that only properly tied flies should ever be cast from a fly rod. He doesn't treat the subject lightly. It is Jack's frustration with trying to catch sulking deep bass on fly tackle that lead him to such heresies as casting plastic worms with fly tackle. I'll admit I share the same frustrations, and I won't be a bit embarrassed to try some of his tactics next year when my buddies and I spend a weekend chasing bass on a northern New York lake.

Readers might not agree with his conclusions, but they certainly cannot say he failed to present a compelling argument for his tactics. He also knows that writing about "non fly" tactics will upset some folks, so he doesn't try to disguise his tactics as something they are not. He draws a pretty clear line, as there is a chapter called "Real Fly Fishing" that kicks off the book that is in direct contrast with the "None Dare Call it Fly Fishing" chapter. You can also see his sense of humor in the title of the final chapter "Bona Fide Flies and Other Things". He doesn't try to convince the reader that using a rubber worm is fly fishing. I honestly don't think he cares one bit if it is or isn't. He's a practical guy. He wants to catch fish, he enjoys catching them on a fly rod most of all, so the more ways he can find to do so are ok with him.

Me too.

"Bassin' with a Fly Rod" is filled with how-to's, why-to's, and lots of good old fashioned fishing stories. In addition to being a good information resource, I also found it to be a good read, as his writing style is smooth and casual. While the book does have an obvious Texas feel to it, the information and tactics presented apply to anywhere largemouth bass can be found, which is just about everywhere.


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