Recommended Books

This list represents a bunch of books that I've been most happy with over the years. Most are older, many are out of print and you'll have to track them down. But they're all worth the money. (The photos and titles are linked directly to Amazon, and yes, I get a bit of money back to help run the site!)

Technique Books
This is not only a very nice technique book, but it's also a bit of a milestone for me! While I've had lots of flies published in a variety of magazines, Tying Heritage Featherwing Streamers
is the first time I've ever been in a book. Staying objective, however, I have to say that I really like this book. Tons of good photos, lots of tips, and a few very interesting ideas - like disecting an original Carrie Stevens fly. I think this is destined to be a classic, and will sit on my shelf right next to Tying Classic Freshwater Streamers and Carrie Stevens.
Perhaps the best bang for your buck is the Benchside Introduction to Fly Tying. This book is exactly half Pattern book, and half Technique book - right across the middle. The top section lets you page to a specific pattern, and the recipe contains cross references for each technique, which you can then page to on the bottom half. At first I was calling this a gimmick, but after using it myself I think it's a great idea. More...
Next in line after the Benchside Introduction is A.K. Best's Production Fly Tying.. This might seem to be too soon in the list, but I'm of the same opinion as A.K. - we're all production tyers, even if it's only a dozen BWO's for that trip tomorrow morning. This book goes into great detail on each step of fly tying, and also has chapters on how to work more efficiently. Not just the "how," but the "why" as well. A great book, and very readable. The newer version is in color, and a bit more polished than the older B&W version. (Pure Technique book.)

I took a two-day seminar with A.K. a few years back at Hunter's in New Boston. He's a great guy. Very down to earth, extremely competent tyer. It's a joy just to watch him use a bobbin.

I don't actually own this one, but so many of my students speak highly of The Fly Tying Bible that I felt I had to include it. This is actually half Technique, half Pattern book. It's a British book, so the patterns are a bit different - and some a bit weird to US tyers - but it gives you a good step-by-step of a good quantity of useful patterns. Very good reviews by the people I know who have one. Note that there are two versions, the ring bound and the spiral bound. More...
OK, so I liked the above book so much that I have to also recommend this one. Same spiral design, same easy reading. But all about North Country Spiders, or Soft Hackle Flies, or well - anything that looks like a Partridge and Orange. I was able to get a copy from the author at the British Fly Fair, but then was able to attend a demo one night in Derbyshire. Mike Harding is quite a guy - musician, comedian, OK fly tyer - and a lot of fun. (All right, as you might imagine, I can never get all that excited about a fly that only has three materials. But my friend George tells me they catch fish...)
The Fly Tyer's Benchside Reference (by the same guys as the Benchside Introduction above) is an absolute Technique book. It's more or less the gold standard in fly tying books. A bit pricey, but you're going to buy this sooner or later, so you might as well get one now. It has every possible method for doing every possible action on a fly, photographed in painstaking detail. Nice to page through, but not just for reading. You will use this when you need a bunch of parachutes, but haven't tied them in a while. This will give the method you need. Or, you see some new and exciting fly, and you can't figure out how they made the body. This book will tell you. A lot of money, so maybe you save this one for your birthday...

For the beginner, it might be a bit intimidating as it lists every possible way of doing every technique, without really rating them against each other. That's up to the reader/tyer.

I'm a great fan of any of Dick Talleur's books. Dick is a meticulous fly tyer, and a great author and teacher to boot. My favorite recommendation for beginners is Basic Fly Tying, but it's hard to go wrong with any of his beginner books. I've taken seminars with Dick as well. He's a very precise (but not a production) tyer.

Theme Books

Most Theme books are a bit of history or fishing, a bit of Technique, and a few patterns. Something for everyone. A few of my favorites...

   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. More...

An interesting book. Written by Al and Grechen Beatty, but a collection of patterns by Gary Lafontaine during the last years of his life as they were working on a video series. This became the source of this book.

Lots of good patterns and information, but be forewarned, this is not Caddisflies. It was written by the Beattys, not by Gary. There is a lot of anecdotal description, fishing stories, etc. and not the amount of science you would get with a Lafontaine book.


I'm rather fond of Rangeley style streamers, and of course of Carrie Stevens. This is the authoritative work on her life as a fly tyer. Good instruction on how she did her "built wing" construction, and a definitive list of recipes of all her patterns. Highly recommended. A bit pricey.


Along the same lines, Dave Klausmeyer has produced a great how-to on Freshwater Streamers. Lots of Carrie's patterns, lots by current tyers, and great photography showing the step-by-step method needed to tie presentation quality streamers. A great book.

Dave also has a couple of other good Theme books - Thunder Creek Flies: Tying and Fishing the Classic Baitfish Imitations which is actually a rewrite of an older Keith Fulsher book, as well as Guide Flies: How to Tie and Fish the Killer Flies from America's Greatest Guides and Fly Shops which is a compendium of modern guides' go-to patterns.alt

Another just plain great guy, I got to know Dave during a class at Hunter's as well as a three-day seminar in 2007 at Lakewood Camps in Maine.


Darrel Martin is always a safe bet when buying books. Micropatterns is my favorite. If you want a readable yet detailed account of tying and fishing flies that are size 18 and smaller, this is for you. He covers just about everything, including how to build your own furled leaders.


The late Gary Lafontaine is a great writer, tyer, and fisherman who brought a bit of science to the study of macroinvertebrates and the fish that eat them. We have a lot of caddis here in the northeast, and Caddisflies has explained a lot of their behavior. His classic Sparkle Caddis Pupa and Emergers came from this book. More...


Another tome that destined to become a classic, The Dry Fly takes Lafontaine a fair amount into uncharted territory. Mostly about fish behavior, he takes a hard look at why fish do what they do, and comes up with some interesting flies to solve some problems. Generalism, Empiricism, Naturalism, and Theories of Attraction. Very readable, and much food for thought. It's worth getting this just for the description of how he used to poach on the private fishing reserve.


Dave Hughes is another great author, and his Trout Flies - The Tier's Reference is bound to become a classic along the lines of the Benchside Reference. Hundreds of incredible close-ups, tying instruction, etc.


On First Blush, how hard can it be to tie a few nymphs, and why would you need a book about it? Good point. However, Nymph Fly Tying Techniquestakes you through some fine tuning on lots of techniques, and then references back to them from the patterns in the back. Covers just about everything nymph-like. A very good reference. 
Pattern Books


Fly Patterns of the Umpqua Feather Merchants is perhaps the most comprehensive pattern-only book around today. It contains 1500 flies, basically the catalog of Umpqua for their foreign-tied flies. Has a metal comb binding to lay easily on the bench. Nine fly patterns per page.

It pops up on eBay, etc. for ridiculous prices - $200 - $250. I was able to buy one a few months ago at the local used book store for $30. 

Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon is a neat book for those of us in New England. It was a collection of all of the trolling streamers around at the time, tied by a variety of tyers (including the Monadnock Region’s own Ora Smith).  The first third of the book is text, followed by flies, 3 to a page. This came in a couple of versions. The first edition was paperback, with a black cover. The second hardcover edition had a greenish slipcover (pictured). Out of print, and prices range from $65 or so for the soft cover to over $100 for the hardcover. Yikes.

There is an appendix with flies that never made it to the front of the book – that is, recipes but no photos. The fine folks at Global Fly Fisher have recognized this defect, and have tied up and photographed the flies for all to see. A very nice piece of work, superbly tied flies, and a nice honor for the original book.



  Hard to justify these other than from a warm-fuzzy aspect for some of us. Not terribly good pictures, no modern materials, and the flies aren't even tied that well. Vintage 1978 but still, a good reference and historical work. There were two of these, the brown Volume 1 and the Green Volume 2. They came in plastic three-ring binders, with the pages printed on fairly heavy card stock. Laid open on the bench well. You should get a set of these just to show that you're steeped in history and tradition. No longer in print, sometimes come up on eBay. Probably $20 to $40 each. The book shown to the left is a combined version of the two older books, metal comb binding, paperback. You can find it through Amazon, or often on the shelf at book stores. I don't own the later version, but I do have the Brown and Green books..


Smelt Fly Patterns is another good resource for us New Englanders. Just a 1/4" thick paperbound recipe book, but lots of nice photos (by Jim Schollmeyer.) Don Wilson, the author, is often seen at the NH Fly Fishing Show.


Patent Patterns is subtitled "1500 Unique and Innovative Fly Patterns." This should provide a clue. It's a compendium of the winners of Fly Fishing and Tying Journal's monthly contest. So it's not the best Quill Gordon, or the most authentic, it's the - well, most unique and innovative that came in that month. So, it might provide some interesting minutes just paddling through it, or some inspiration if you want to try something new - mainly with foam or synthetic winging - but this won't provide a reference on standard patterns. 

My advice - stick to the standard traditional patterns first, get bored with those, and then get innovative on your own, based on what's in your materials box. You don't need help (or permission) to ad lib in fly tying.

(The title is a reference to the patent process that lets an inventor disclose his invention, to spur on other innovation (with some business protection in exchange. Something sadly lacking in our current patent system, but that belongs on a different site...)


Flies for Trout is one of a series of pattern books by Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen that covered a bunch of different categories, called the Flies of North America series. Flies for Steelhead, Flies for Atlantic Salmon, Flies for Bass & Panfish, and Flies for Saltwater make up the list. The Salmon editions are getting rare, and rather pricey. The Trout version is fairly cheap. 

Each page has five or six patterns with photos, recipe, and a short paragraph of description. The Trout book is 124 pages long, and about 110 of those are pages as shown here.These are good, solid reference books, with patterns shown in their traditional forms. If you come across one of these and it's cheap enough, pick it up. You'll eventually want the whole set.

  I hesitate to even to go down the entomology road. Some guys really beat this to death. I, on the other hand, have a highly-tuned system of bug identification - Big Red Ones, Little Yellow Ones, etc. This book is half bug ID book, and half pattern book. (Although, the flies are recommended and shown for each bug, but the fly pattern is not given.)
Anyway, this book is great for the beginning bug chaser/fly tyer. It lists a bug on the left page, and three good imitations on the right page. The bugs are recorded at various spots during its life cycle. I've heard from some students in my fly tying class that carrying and using this book has improved their fishing success considerably.
And I like it because it's fun to ID the bugs.
It's a small, pocket-sized book.
  Salmon Fly Books

My first advice to anyone interested in classic Atlantic Salmon fly tying is for them to turn and run in the opposite direction, thereby saving themselves thousands of dollars and years of their life. Most people don’t listen, so for those I’ve listed a group of books that I find quite helpful. Again, I’ve listed these in the order that a beginner might find them useful.

What a great book. A bit of a misnomer, because Classic Salmon Fly Materials is more of a Technique book than a Materials book. Or maybe, "Materials and How to Use Them." The best part of this is Mike Radencich’s absolutely stunning photography. (I can’t ever look at this book without thinking back to my start in fly tying with the black & white, hand drawn Herter’s manual, but that’s a gray-beard story for another time.) This book is the poster child for everything that’s right with fly tying print media today.

I am pretty sure that everything I learned in my 120 hour salmon fly apprenticeship program is in this book, in painstaking detail. A couple of the techniques in here really clicked with me, and were easily worth the cost of the book right off the bat (his wing mounting and throat winding techniques, specifically.) I still take the book down for review when I’m doing some onerous task – mounting mallard roofs, for instance.  

If you look at the Amazon reviews you will probably see some negative comments relating to the pages in the rear of the book that are reproductions of early color salmon plates. I have less of an issue with this. Even though I seldom specifically use them, I enjoy paging through them. The argument is that there should be more technique on those pages instead of wasting it on old flies. I say there’s plenty of technique in the book, and the flies are the frosting on the cake. Buy this book.

How to Dress Salmon Flies is a book you really should buy someday, or at least spend some time borrowing a copy from a friend. This was is one of the classic early works, and is used as the main reference in these parts. I used this book when learning from my mentor, and at a recent class with Charlie Chute I noted that he uses this book as his reference. There are still copies around, if you have a plump checkbook. If I were just starting out I would likely start with some thing else ... More
This book is in second place just because I use it all the time. Classic Salmon Flies is basically a Classic Salmon Fly Pattern book. Each fly has its own page, with a photograph, a recipe, a history, and a discussion of other variations of the fly. Really invaluable for a serious salmon fly tyer. No current patterns, just the Victorian classics. Out of print for some time, but used copies are available. (I recently got a paperback version for $20. Pictures not quite as sharp, or rich, but very usable.)


Building Classic Salmon Flies is by Ron Alcott, another classic New England tyer. A good book, mine is the plastic spiral bound version that lays flat. Good photos, but Rons's style is a bit on the "fishing" side of things. That is, he's a bit more utilitarian than some of the other big name tyers out there today. ... More 
Fishing Atlantic Salmon, The Flies and the Patterns ranks as another "must have" for the salmon fly tyer. This book is almost a spiritual concurrence of several factors. Written primarily by the late Joeseph Bates, Jr. who, in my estimation, is a great, readable author - you won't be disappointed by any of his books. The book was unfinished when Bates died, and it sat for years before his daughter, Pamela Bates Richards finished the manuscript. She also pulled in the stunning photography of Michael Radencich (see above) as well as delightful sketches by John Swan. 

To top it off, I was able to obtain the late Warren Duncan's copy of the book, presented to him and signed by Ms. Bates and Bob Warren, the editor. More...


In Pretty and Practical Salmon Flies Dick Talleur takes the same technique he's used to get thousands of people tying flies with his beginner books, and translates it for the salmon fly tyer. In other words, he discusses the absolute essentials for tying solid flies for fishing, and does it in a clear, straightforward manner. If you plan on tying flies to put in your box for that trip to Canada, I would start out with this book.  More...


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