Fly fishing is so much more than just a hobby. While it can be a fun pastime to waste a few hours of a weekend, or even a sport to see how many fish you can catch and what exotic and rare creatures you can find; the activity can also be much more than either of those things.
Fly fishing is at its best when you feel as though you are truly using your body and brain as nature intended – to hunt, track and outsmart your prey. This is a chance to switch off from technology and the stresses of modern life and to immerse yourself in areas of natural beauty.
This is an opportunity to wade out into beautiful, still waters, to cast your line far across the water to the opposite bank and to watch as your expertly crafted and researched fly does its work and attracts its prey. And then the game begins!
The best fly fishing books are not just the general guides and references – although these can be instrumental in helping you to catch more fish and become better at your chosen craft – rather, the best fly fishing books of all time are the ones that capture the very spirit of fly fishing and that fill you with inspiration and the desire to get back out there as soon as possible.
Let’s look at some of the absolute classics and some hidden gems in this genre.
This book from author Thomas McGuane (author of Ninety-Two in the Shade) is a beautiful book that describes his passion for fishing and the lessons and experiences that came from that. The book travels the world from the tarpon in Florida to Iceland to catch some salmon.
The book is filled with characters and it is very clear that the author has a real love of fishing. It is filled with inspiring reflections, funny moments and a healthy respect for nature. This is a great book to take on your next trip abroad, assuming you have brought your rod with you!
You know you’re getting high-brow when a book explains that it is looking at fishing not just as a sport but as an ‘art’. This tome discusses the amazing relationship between rivers and music and waxes lyrical on the mysteries of aquatic life.
In general, it’s a book that will challenge the way you think about fishing and give you a new perspective. The book also has a unique structure, looking at different rivers and different fish each month. It’s another inspiring read and one that will fill you with even more enthusiasm for your passion!
Orvis is a company that in general sticks to its old-fashioned values. Even its app and website looks very outdated. But that’s because the company is an institution and still a great authority on the subject of fly fishing.
That’s how you know that it’s fly-fishing guide is going to be a worthwhile book that will cover all of the basics you need to know to really get stuck into the world of fly fishing.
Like all the best guide books though, it should also go beyond that and actually introduce you to just how exciting and beautiful the sport/hobby/art can be too.
The guide is filled with over 400 color photos and illustrations and is just as stunning to look at as it is useful!
If you love fly fishing, then there are many different things you may find draws you to it. It might be the actual act of fly fishing, it might be the addictive nature of the hobby or it might be the stunning, beautiful places that you will visit. (Of course ‘all three’ is also a valid answer!)
If you’re someone who particularly enjoys the travel aspect of fly fishing though, the this book from author Chris Santella is for you. With some amazing stories, some beautiful images and some good ideas for places to fish, it will make a brilliant gift for anyone who loves fly fishing and a great coffee-table book for picking up and flicking through on occasion.
This book was written in 1653 by Izaak Walton and the fact that it still comes up in lots of lists should clue you in on the fact that it’s actually a pretty amazing text. This book is not only a great book about fishing but also a ‘snapshot of 17th century England’ (as one writer put it) and an entertaining, good spirited and humorous read.
If you want to know a little more about the history of your chosen pastime, then this is a must-read book and one that belongs on every anglers shelf.
After all, the book is now in the public domain which means you can download the Kindle version entirely for free. No excuse for not giving it a chance!
Another book that belongs in the ‘inspiration and entertaining’ category of fly fishing books. This is a book that was published in 1996 by author John Gierach and is still widely renowned.
It is a whimsical collection of meditations and reflections on the life of an angler and that makes it ideal for dipping in an out of. Stories include the joys of Labrador fishing to the challenges of getting a fly rod through customs. There should be something here for every angler to relate to and crack a smile at!
It’s no surprise that fly fishing – being such an inspiring activity – should have inspired so many great books and texts. With that in mind, you should have no trouble finding more amazing books to add to this list. Let us know what classics we missed!