Published Mar 29. 2006 - 15 years ago
Updated or edited Aug 7. 2019

Book review: Fish Flies I and II

The Encyclopedia of the Fly Tier's Art

An impressing couple of books. An encyclopedia of fly patterns, history and tying methods. Huge and with enormous amounts of material.

Terry Hellekson
Gibbs Smith
Publishing year: 
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This is an amazing couple of books!
Volume one has been sitting on my bookshelf for many years and I have had it out many times to check facts about various patterns.
A couple of years ago I bought a used copy of volume two, and even though it hasn't seen as much use as the first book, it does get some attentions now and then. Recently I was handling the books again, and that sparked me to dig out this review, which I started writing for volume one many years ago.

The sheer physical size of these books is breathtaking. We're talking 832 pages plus 408 in Letter format. Trust me: they are big!

The concept and scope is no less awe-striking. An author who sets himself the goal of creating an extremely extensive list of all kinds of fly patterns garnished with text on materials, tools, tying methods origins - and the general history of fly tying as well as an introduction to tools, materials and methods - has given himself an immense assignment.
Terry Hellekson has done exactly that by embarking on the mission to create these books.

Eric W. Peper writes in his foreword to volume one that a large volume like this is bound to be scrutinized for omissions, and peculiarly enough I had leafed through the book and dug into the index for some selected terms before I read the foreword, and oddly enough I was struck by the lack of information on certain things rather then the presence of colossal amounts of information on an abundance of others.

I didn't find the word CDC.
I didn't find the term Czech nymphs.
No Fratnik or his renown F-Fly.
I didn't find French Deveaux or Patterson's funnel dun flies.

It's as if Eric W. Peper had seen that the omissions already and wanted to preclude any criticism of this fact.

I know it is not fair to judge a work such as this on the omissions, but I can't help it. I have more than a few times felt that stuff was missing, which would not have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that the books have the word encyclopedia in their names.
That carries some weight and leads to an obligation.
When you write an encyclopedia, you must ensure that you cover all aspects and at least not omit central concepts or terms.

The books do have a US angle of view, and that might be the reason for certain issues to be treated lightly and even left out. I have no problems with that as long as I'm aware of the fact, and when looked upon as an encyclopedia of US and English flies some of the omissions can be forgiven - even though I still do miss them.

OK, enough complaining. I have had volume one for many years and got volume two like a few years ago, and my prime use for the books has been and will be checking facts about fly patterns, which is the obvious way of using the books.
They aren't coffee table books. They might be large format, but they are very clearly marked by their age, being printed in B/W with a few drawings and a bunch of color plates in the middle. Neither photos nor layout is in any way stylish - more like the opposite, a bit primitive actually. So these aren't books that you sit down and leaf through. These are encyclopedic books that serve the purpose of checking facts about fly patterns: materials, history, originators etc.

They were first published in the 90's but can still be found new here and there, but at very varying prices.
Both volumes can now and then be bought for as little as 15 US$ per volume on the US version of Amazon, while they typically list at the double or more in the UK. The books appear and disappear as both new and used, and if you want them you have to keep an eye out for them. Bought at the lowest possible price, they can be had for as little as 30 US$ for the pair, which is definitely an extremely good deal for these many pages.

A couple of huge books - Lots of pages and large format
A couple of huge books
Martin Joergensen

But only buy them if you are like me and have the need and urge to check facts on flies now and then and to dig out recipes for all kinds of patterns. For reading, learning to tie and good photographs or illustrations of flies, there are many better alternatives out there.


There is an original...

There is an original volume 1 and 2. The newer volume is an update and a single volume. Terry passed away a few years ago. When he was working on the update he contacted me. The volumes are decidedly USA and even more importantly, Western Trout. There are other types of patterns in these books, they are after all reference books. There aren't a lot of photos in this book compared to several other newer books.

If you get a copy of Dave Hughes' Trout,and the Benchside Reference by Leeson and Schollmeyer, I suspect you'll have most of the reference materials covered.Hughes' book is quite good also.

Some of the writing in this book is quite good. While there are some omissions, this is a reference book and as such it really is one of the best. There are very few reference books with the depth of this one.The author admits that he didn't include a lot of stuff. Since most of the stuff is pretty traditional, things like Czech patterns are really derivative in nature and are often variations of many things. Even the "F" fly is derivative in nature and based on a trude wing pattern design which is included. He also talks about substituting materials and making things out of other materials as well. Perhaps there needs to be a World or European type book done. Given all of Martin's exposure to flies, this sounds like the prefect project!

I am not sure that a lot of the current vogue of using plastic, tons of glue is what this traditional fellow is all about. I also know he has Catskill roots and lived out East for awhile. He was great friends with Glenn Overton of the wonder wax fame . Glenn wrote some material for our Catskill Fly Tyers Guild newsletter a while back.


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