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A Book Recommendation
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
The Fly: Two Thousand Years of Fly Fishing by Andrew Herd
May I offer a book recommendation for your fly-fishing library? For Christmas my wife gave me a paperback copy of Andrew Herd’s The Fly: Two Thousand Years of Fly Fishing. After spending a few days with it, I believe it’s one of the best books I own. Andrew Herd is an exceptional researcher and writer. He takes a subject that could be somewhat tedious and turns it into an interesting, lively narrative. This book offers information and perspectives that I haven’t found in other works.
Though not written specifically for Japanese tenkara, it does touch on the subject and also offers information on tenkara-like fishing in Macedonia and other European countries. Most of the fly-fishing history books I have start with the Treatyse of Fisshynge wyth an Angle, by Dame Juliana Berners (though authorship is debated). Herd goes deeper than this and traces the history of fly fishing before medieval times, perhaps earlier than the 3rd century. He also includes fascinating information about ancient fly patterns and even explores the advantages of fixed-line fly rods.
I enjoy the fact that Herd doesn’t take himself too seriously and leaves room for different interpretations of the same information. The author arranges the book chronologically, rather than having separate chapters on fly patterns, rods, lines, reels, and so forth.
I have only two complaints about the book, and they’re just minor annoyances. First, the volume was originally published as a handsome limited edition hardback in 2001. The more recent paperback edition (2003, Medlar Press) is the copy most of us will see and buy. I find the cover of the paperback to be somewhat misleading (see above photo). It seems more suited to a science fiction or horror novel rather than a book about fly fishing history. That’s just a matter of personal taste. Second, the font in the paperback edition is a little small and crowded for my aging eyes. It’s still readable; I’d just “up” the size if I had my druthers. I want to emphasize, however, that these observations do not detract from the tremendous value of Herd’s work.
Dr. Herd is a consulting physician in County Durham in Northeast England. He’s written extensively on fly fishing, and his scholarship shines in his writing. You can tell that he has a good sense of humor and is a keen observer of the natural world. Once you start reading the book, it’s hard to put down. It’s also the kind of book that you’ll want to turn to time and again as your appreciation of fly fishing grows. The author combines entertainment and education as few can. If you’re able to purchase a copy of The Fly, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
It would be a fine way to start the New Year.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Study to be quiet." - Izaak Walton 1653
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma