I have a sizable collection of fly fishing books. Sometimes I’ll review one. I’ll keep it under 500 words. Any longer and you should just go read the book. Expect slander, personal opinion, and unbridled honesty. I like both books and fly fishing too much to be nice.
Whoa, Nelly. This is the big one. I’d never be the one to say that a book had too much information but The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon and Steelhead Flies comes close. It is exactly what it says it is, a complete, illustrated, encyclopedic collection of just over 1,800 steelhead and salmon flies. There’s a bit of long-form writing, and some discussion of various fly types and so on, but the bulk of the book is large, glossy pages with very clean illustrations of flies and nicely formatted recipes for tying them. Want to know what goes into a Silver Doctor or any of the various Akroyd variants? It’s all in here. One of the best features of this book is the indices in the back. There’s a list of all flies organized by style (surface, wet, etc), a list of the primary fly designers and creators for the fly patterns, and a bibliography of reference works for salmon and steelhead fly tying. These alone are a fantastic piece of reference for anyone interested in going deeper into this particular world.
When I was a kid I loved the big picture books like The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Armor or anything by David Macaulay (Castle, Cathedral, The Way Things Work). This book has the same feeling. I would get lost in the details of these books, looking into cross-sections of sailing ships or castle fortifications, or obsessing over lists of various kinds of armor. What can I say, I was a deeply nerdy child. But The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon and Steelhead Flies has the same compulsively page-flipping aesthetic. I’ve already sat down at my desk with it and just flipped until I saw a pattern that I had to try. Do I live near steelhead or salmon water? No, not at all. But I love tying flies and this book is a connection to a whole new community of fly tiers and styles that aren’t part of my usual experience. Maybe this book can act as a catalyst to tie a couple boxes of flies and plan a trip to catch my first steelhead. There are worse things to hope for.
I am really pleased to have this book on my shelf. For anyone considering a purchase, note that it is somewhat pricey, though there are many used copies. But, if you are a dedicated salmon or steelhead fly fisher, or you’re like me and just have a giant shelf of fly fishing books, this is a great addition to the collection.