Published Jun 9. 2012 - 11 years ago
Updated or edited Nov 21. 2017

Book review: Tied in the Hand

Odyssey of a salmon fly-tyer

More than a hundred classical salmon flies tied without a vice by Swedish Sven-Olov Haard accompanied by a text on the history of the salmon flies, a lot about the House of Hardy and equally much about tying and fishing the flies. A beautiful book.

Sven-Olov Hård
Coch-y-Bonddu Books
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

Well done, Mr. Hård!
You have made an overwhelming book!
For many reasons.

Of course there is the flies. They are beautiful, although not perfect, which in my eyes just makes them even more beautiful. Charming might be a better word, but can be interpreted as below par which they are not!
As the title indicates the flies in the book are tied in the hand, meaning with no vice, and taking this into consideration they are more than perfect. I don't know if it's the technique, by design or the way the materials are chosen and used, but the flies are just so extremely fishy. You see those little imperfections that just make the flies come alive: a skewed rib, a bump on a silk body, a feather stem peeking out under the head. You'd never see such things on most full dressed salmon flies tied solely for display by many contemporary full dress salmon fly tyers. Such flies are indeed often perfect.
But in this book, the flies are tied in the hand, and they look in many ways as the commercially tied flies that you find in collections of the flies from yore. These are flies tied for fishing, and the author does indeed fish them, which in my eyes makes the appeal even larger.
At one point Sven-Olov Hård refers to the style of Hardy's flies, and confirms my impression when he writes "Hardy's salmon flies have always been my benchmark. They have a very special character. The patterns they made are not perfect, but technically unrivaled". Exactly how I judge the flies in the book.
Well done Mr. Hård!

Blue Doctor and Green Highlander from the book
Svend-Olov Haard

Then there's the photography - or rather the pictures of the flies, because to my great surprise I learned that they were scanned in a flatbed scanner and not shot with a camera!
The pictures are not artsy or fancy in any way. On the contrary. They are super simple and clean. And that makes the pictures of the flies work really well. I normally like the fly plates that you find in many books where several flies are laid on some background and shot with texture and ambiance. I also like the way many photographers arrange materials and artifacts around a fly to match its colors or structure. I have written about my own fly photography where I consider variation a virtue.
But I must say that in this case I really enjoy the uniform, clean, neutral and well executed fly illustrations in this book. And there are lots of images, and they get the room and attention they need. There's one or two fly pictures on each spread, and they literally draw so much attention that you almost forget the text. The flies are in every way "larger than life" and the details can be seen in amazing detail and clarity. The scans have been made by Birgitta Hjelm, who has also done the layout (more on that below) and are as good and better than many of the fly photographs found other places, and orders of a magnitude better than any scans I have seen (or made myself for that matter) in the past.
Well done Mrs. Hjelm!

And then there's the watercolors. Painted by Lars Sundström they add more of this delightful imperfection. Not that they aren't nicely painted. They are. But the watercolor style simply breaks the rhythm of the photos and the text in a way that becomes everything very well. The watercolors show materials, tying methods and landscapes. Some are small vignettes, some larger rectangles and some are full and even two-page pictures. All are beautiful and add that variation, which helps make the book.
Well done Mr. Sundström!

Watercolors from the book
Lars Sundstrom

The layout. I know that few people will notice this - which is a sign of its excellence - but Birgitta Hjelm has done a very fine job of designing the book, and has been generous with whitespace and the opposite with graphic elements such as lines, dividers and other things that could disturb the flow. It's nice to the eyes, easy to read, draws no attention away from the flies, but still plays a vital role in giving an overall impression of elegance.
Well done Mrs. Hjelm!

Last but not least there's the text. This does not seem as a how-to book at first sight. When you start reading it's about the history of the salmon flies, how the author got into tying them and not least how The House of Hardy inspired and influenced him and the whole salmon fishing and fly-tying world. There's a lot of historical facts about the flies and the world of salmon fishing, but also some personal accounts of the author's meeting with Jimmy Robinson from Hardy in particular.
But the text develops into a very thorough set of instructions in how to tie a fly in the hand, and the author offers all kinds of advice - from general considerations about the construction and character of the flies to very specific tips on tools, materials and the single tying steps when tying flies like these with no vice. You will not find pattern descriptions and materials lists for the hundreds of flies in the book. This is not a pattern book as such, but still a very practical book that will be a great inspiration for those who want to tin in the hand, but also very useful to those of us who still uses a vice.
Well done Mr. Hård!

Well done indeed, Mr. HÃ¥rd!

After this very hands-on section, Sven-Olov Hård winds down with facts about a handful of Scottish rivers and a diary from a fishing trip to Scotland, some personal observations on tying salmon flies and even poetry.

Well done indeed, Mr. Hård!

I have revised our review scale, and this book is one of the reasons. I have seen so many books and DVD's lately that are immediate Global Class candidates. The quality of products in both categories has been rising the past decade, and titles that were Global Class 10 years ago, do not match today's best products. There's a few extremely good titles in our review section, which actually deserved an Extra Global Class verdict to set them apart from what's just really good.

This title deserves that Xtra Global Class!

John Ferguson and Thorndyke from the book
Svend-Olov Haard

See more on Sven-Olov's own web site


Tied in the Hand...

Tied in the hand, means sans vise, not sans vice. One could say that salmon fly tying is a vice, however the tool that is omitted is a vise... :)


Martin Joergensen's picture

The name of a tool...


The debate about vise vs. vice pops up now and then and is probably as old as the tool itself.

And no, it's not as simple as "a vise, not a vice". Both are fine and the spelling depends on what kind of English you write - and the writers mood.

For a non-English person like myself, I couldn't care less. I understand that a vice is not a bad habit of the tier (or is that tyer?), but the tool he uses - or rather doesn't use in this case.

Lately I have started writing vise rather than vice, but then the Brits (and The Aussies and the Kiwis, maybe?) are on my case.



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