Published Oct 29. 2002 - 21 years ago
Updated or edited Jan 20. 2020

Book review: Shrimp & Spey Flies for Salmon

A Comprehensive Guide for Anglers and Flytyers
Chris Mann and Robert Gillespie
Merlin Unwin Books
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

This book is titled Shrimp & Spey Flies for Salmon & Steelhead in the US

I had been looking forward to this book - not least because one of my fellow GFF partners, Steve Schweitzer, and I myself had been corresponding with one of authors, Chris Mann, and had supplied flies for the book.
Like most people I am a bit narcissistic. Most of us must admit that seeing our own name on print in a book does hold a certain degree of satisfaction.

I'm no different, but when my copy arrived from the UK only a few days after I ordered it online from the publisher, I completely forgot about looking for Steve's or my own name.

I was in awe! My dumb, blissful smile would not leave my face. The cover alone was enough to tell about a book beyond the ordinary, and the first few pages just confirmed my sense of complacency.
My eyes were skimming page after page of lovely pictures of the most fantastic fly patterns. Totally uniform, exquisite quality, bright and clear colors.

It continued page after page. Shrimps, grubs, Speys... shrimps again... more speys. Modern ones. Classic ones. I have always loved these particular types of flies, and there I was.
Kid in a candy store...
Dracula in a blood bank...
Fox in a chicken pen...

Through fragments of correspondence with Chris, Steve and the publisher I had heard mention of Chris' fantastic computer art, but I had no idea that this was what was meant. All the fly pictures in this book are computer drawn, and I have to swallow every word I ever said about not being able to offer justice to flies by drawing them on a computer! These are fabulous! It actually lasted a few minutes before the truth dawned on me. I had taken them for real flies - scanned actually, because of the light and the background, which is so typical for scanned flies.

But these are not scanned. They are individually drawn, and perfect too. The drawings have the advantage of presenting all flies equally well, in the same scale and with the same amount of details.
You might ask yourself how the artist manages to get the texture of dubbing and the structure of CDC - not to mention the patterns on a mallard or a purple dyed guinea fowl feather?
Well, he does!
I have done quite a lot of computer illustrations in my life, and if my standards were just half of what Chris Mann's are, I could quit my daytime job and make a living of my skills.

Page sample
Page sample
Page samples
Global FlyFisher

Alas, the book is of course not drawings alone, and luckily the text lives up to the steep competition from the illustrations. The subtitle of the book is "A Comprehensive Guide" and that is no understatement.
In my days as a biologist at the University of Copenhagen we called books like this monographies. A monography is a book, which explains the nature and origin of a certain species or group of species. This book does exactly that with particularly shrimp flies, but to some extend also with grub and Spey flies and other related and characteristic flies such as the General Practitioner.

Their history and previous and contemporary use and tying is explained. Each family of patterns is covered in depth. The origin is traced and the development of the pattern is described.

The book contains four major parts:

  • History and development of the shrimp fly
  • European flies
  • North American flies
  • Catalogue of dressings

The last chapter is a systematic collection of all the patterns mentioned in the book. Each is depicted and the materials list is given.

The other three chapters contain the body of the book, and introduces numerous people in the presentation of each fly - originators as well as those of us who rely on them and the traditions they institutionalized.
A number of famous as well as less known names appear both in the roles of originators and that of the bearers of traditions. Each old and traditional pattern documents the fly or style, and each contemporary pattern illustrates a way of carrying on that tradition. Every single page refers to several tyers and flies, and tries to establish as many facts as possible.
The book forms an almost endless source of inspiration to those of us who love shrimps and speys. Robert Gillespie and Chris Mann have done a wonderful job of collecting the patterns and the information and have managed to write it all together in a very comprehensive manner.

I have so much respect for the overall result and the tremendous work put into the research and writing of this book that I am willing to forgive a few small inaccuracies that I stumbled over during my immersion into the book the week after I got it.
This results in my final verdict: the book is up there among the best, and the combination of a thorough text and sublime illustrations earns it a Global Class rating on Global FlyFisher.
On top of that it is an inexpensive book. Priced at UK£ 20.- or as low as US$ 23.- it is way below comparable books in the market, which in this size and quality usually run on the not-so-pleasant side of the 40-50 US dollar price mark.


Hi GFF team, I'm ...

Hi GFF team,

I'm very interested in this book but for some reason it is not available or very difficult to get in Europe. However during my research I found one more book of the same authors, "Shrimp & spey flies for salmon and steelhead"
I just wanted to ask whether you know this book and how the content differs from the one you reviewed here.
Thanks and Regards,


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