Barr Flies


  This is a refreshing book. The author, John Barr, and the photographer, Charlie Craven, are both rabid fishermen. So it's pretty clear what the focus of this book will be. I tend to swing to the other side of the spectrum, and pay more attention to tying than to fishing. These guys, although they are consummate fly tyers, never lose sight of the fact that they're tying just to support their fishing habit.
In general, I tend to believe that all the great flies have already been invented, and any further modifications and changes are just a mechanism of some guide or tyer to go further down the path of shameless self-promotion. Really not the case here. As a matter of fact, if I had to name some people who have created some really innovative and effective flies in the last 50 years, it would really boil down to Hans Weilleman's CDC & Elk, and John Barr's Copper John. The Copper John is a classic example of the "well, duh!" view of invention - "anyone could have thought of that!" Of course, anyone didn't, and it took Mr. Barr to figure out a way to incorporate enough weight on the classic nymph to make it a real depth charge. Add to that his epoxy wingcase, and you have a pretty effective, bulletproof fly. Pretty cool. 

Of course, Barr is famous for the Hopper/Copper/Dropper method of fishing. Well, not really the method, but the cool name. Another great fly in the book is the B/C hopper, which is a joint effort between Barr and Craven. Again, it's an amalgam of different ideas, plugged together to produce a pretty rugged fly. I think I will be trying this one out this spring, replacing the Club Sandwich on my H/C/D rig.

While I've never used the dry flies, John ties up a pretty bulletproof looking "Vis-a-Dun." Nothing new here (didn't Marinaro notch the bottom of the hackle?) but he goes after things with some vinyl glue that looks like it will really hold the wing and hackle in place. I can see a few of these, tied up with some Sulphur colors, in my box as well.

About the only negative thing I can say about the book is that it might overdo the "superb photography, step-by-step" approach. I never thought I'd say this, since it goes against my usual  "isn't fly tying documentation in the new milennium just grand" view of the universe, but at some point, enough is enough. For example, it's one thing to have a blow-by-blow photographic description of how to tie a nymph. But then, a whole 'nother chapter on how to tie a Jumbo nymph. And a slightly different chapter on a nymph with tungsten bead. Even worse, at the end of a couple of chapters there are two pages dedicated to the variations on the fly. That's great, but do we really need 10 identical recipes, the only difference with each being the color of the wire and perhaps the tail or bead? I mean, couldn't we have just said, "You can also tie the Copper John with black, red, blue, green, and chartreuse wire?" Sure, it doesn't make for as plump a book, but really. Setting these recipes up in 3" x 3" boxes on the last page of the chapter seems to be a bit of a waste of paper.

Other than that one little complaint - OK, more of an observation than a complaint - I think the book is great. Serious fishermen who also happen to be fly tyers are going to love this book.