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A Book Recommendation

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

The Fly: Two Thousand Years of Fly Fishing by Andrew Herd

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.

Comments for A Book Recommendation

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Dec 30, 2018
A Book Recommendation
by: David Noll

Darn, another book to buy. I just picked up three by John Voelker who I can heartily recommend.

Dec 30, 2018
Don't Neglect Reference Works
by: Les Albjerg

John - Thanks for the review and recommendation. I'm always looking for a good read! Since it is the season for reading as much as enjoying those few days you can get out fishing, I'm adding this one to my list.

I bought "Fishes of the Great Basin, A natural History" by William F Sigler and John W. Sigler a couple of weeks ago. It isn't a novel, but the history is both enlightening and somewhat sad to see how our forefathers abused our resources. It is a history of species invasion, as well as discovery of native species in isolated places. It is exciting to read about the comeback of several fish.

As a fisherman, the insights of different species to chase, and the environment that they live in is worth the price of the book. If you like to catch different species, it is a great reference book, as well as a guide to where to fish and what the fish like to eat.

So, I guess what I am saying is don't neglect reading about what we are trying to get to chase our flies or bait or lures!

Jan 05, 2019
Great Books!
by: Herb S.

Thanks, John. The Fly looks like a winner!

Also thanks to Les. "Fishes of the Great Basin…" will no doubt be invaluable to anyone planning on fishing there.

David, I second your recommendation! As a native Michigander I might be prejudiced. Also, it was John’s first fishing book that got me hooked on trout fishing. I was 13 when Trout Madness was hot off the press and in the window of our book store uptown. I went in, bought it and have been happy ever since. For those who don’t know, John Voelker’s pen name was Robert Traver. He was a lawyer, county prosecutor and Michigan Supreme Court Judge. When his novel, Anatomy of a Murder, made the best seller list and into the movie of the same name he retired back to his beloved Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula to write during the winters and fish between ice-out and freeze-up.

Happy reading and fishing,

Jan 21, 2019
The Fly
by: Roger Hall

Purchased it last year, great read, especially in the winter. Nice addition to any library. And no, it is not a horror story.

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