Published Nov 24. 2005 - 18 years ago
Updated or edited Nov 26. 2017

Book review: The Art of the Atlantic Salmon Fly

Joseph D. Bates
Swan Hill Press
Publishing year: 
UK£ used
Reviewed by: 

Reviewing a book originally from 1989 might seem a bit silly. Let me assure you it isn't!
Reviewing a book written by J. D. Bates might seem a bit intimidating. Let me assure you it is!

I'm not sure quite how to attack the task at hand. On one side this is one of the all time classics written by Bates only a decade after his landmark monograph on streamers. On the other side it's just a book like any other from the 80's - not really impressing by today's standards and usually not something you would worthy much attention, had it not been for the author.

The book is indeed a bit old-school if you look at it with modern eyes: printed in B/W with color plates and in appearance a lot like Pryce-Tannat's "How to Dress Salmon Flies" from 1914. Compared to Jorgensen's salmon fly book from about the same time as this volume, Bates' book does seem a bit lagging in the development, of which Jorgensen's book is such an excellent representative.

But just because it doesn't have tying steps or detailed images of materials it's not automatically a bad book - even by today's standards. This is a fine book in many ways.

Running through its color plates will leave an impression of a very broad selection of flies, and the first chapters on history and construction of salmon flies make up some great reading in Bates' very personal style, lending attention to persons, places and times for many of the incidents, which have shaped the modern salmon flies.

But I am still left with a feeling that this book is a mere try to follow up on the fantastic Streamers book from the 50's (revised in the 90's by Bates' daughter), which must be counted amongst the biggest landmarks in fly tying books. This book does not at all have the depth as well as the detail found in the Streamers book.

Seen from a historical point-of-view - the history of fly tying books, that is, not the history of salmon flies - this is an interesting book. The historical facts in here does make a good read, but as a tier of Atlantic salmon flies you will not find much in here, which cannot be found more and better in other works from the same era or in contemporary books.

I do not doubt that some salmon fly tiers will find my judgment a bit hard, but seen from a user's perspective this book is quite expensive and probably only really interesting to book and salmon fly aficionados.


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