Published Apr 13. 2006 - 18 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 13. 2015

Book review: Creative Fly Tying

Mike Mercer
Wild River Press
Publishing year: 
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I'm going to work this review backwards and do the complaints first.

I am no fan of fly names that are simply a list of ingredients. Names like "Gold Bead Poxyback Green Drake Nymph", "Copper Bead Micro Z-Wing Caddis", or even "Gold Bead Biot Epoxy Golden Stone Nymph" make me a little cranky. I like names that are simple and offer me a slight possibility of remembering the name on the stream should someone ask me what I'm using when we're out fishing. If I ever answered "Gold Bead Epoxy Golden Stone Nymph", they'd think I was being a smart alec. Of course, seeing as how I can't seem to keep my kids name straight, chances are I'd goof up the name entirely.

"Oh - just try an Adams" would probably be my frustrated answer.

Next - I admit I was a little disappointed that the book had only 12 patterns inside. Yes, I know, each chapter offers up some subtle variations that can crank up the actual pattern count (the "Green Body Copper Bead Micro Z-Wing Caddis" vs the "Ginger Body Copper Bead Micro Z-Wing Caddis", heh heh), but I bet Mike has more patterns he could share than just this dozen.

Enough complains. Let's get on with the good stuff.

While there are only 12 chapters in the book, each chapter is a gold mine of fly tying information. Each chapter takes us along for a ride on the development of the pattern, the genesis often being some frustrating fishing trips which actually make for some mighty enjoyable reading. Instead of just presenting the fly in it's final form, Mercer goes further to tell us all the stops along the way from the very first attempt to what is presented in the book, making sure to educate us on the dead ends as well as the tricks that worked unexpectedly well. He also is quick with credit when his flies are a variation of existing patterns, such as Brian Chan's influence on the development of Mercer's Zebra Midgeling.

While the book does have a decidedly western slant to both the patterns and the fishing descriptions - he does live and work in California for Heaven's sake - there is information here that will help trout fishers who live anyway. I'm pretty sure there will be a few Beaverkill trout tempted by a Zebra Midgeling this summer - at least if I have anything to do about it. A Rag Sculpin would be deadly in a certain creek back home, which has an excellent population of the little buggers.

As mentioned earlier, the are twelve chapters in the book, each devoted to a single fly pattern. They are:

  1. Gold Bead Poxyback Green Drake Nymph
  2. Copper Bead Micro Z-Wing Caddis
  3. Profile Spinner
  4. Rag Sculpin
  5. Mayfly Nymph
  6. Alaska Lemming
  7. PMD Trigger Nymph
  8. Gold Bead Biot Epoxy Golden Stone Nymph
  9. Sac Fry
  10. Rag Hex Nymph
  11. Zebra Midgeling
  12. Glasstail Caddis Pupa

The Lemming and the Sac Fry seem a bit out of place for most of us - not many Lemmings are leaping in the Beaverkill these days, and there isn't much of an Alevin hatch where trout line up to eat the newly hatched salmon fry - but for some I'm sure these will be valuable patterns.

Mike Mercer's desire to teach comes through in his writing. This is not dogma. He's not telling you how to do it. He's telling you how he did it - and does it - and what he's learned from years of guiding and observing. We should all pay attention.

As for the book itself, it is spiral bound so that it opens up and lays flat, which certainly is useful if you're going to use it at your tying bench. It makes it less useful as a "sit down and read a book" book, however, but that likely is not the design point. The editing is clean and the tying sequences are supported by outstanding full color photographs by Ted Fauceglia. The images leap off the page. It that sense - it is a quite beautiful book.


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