Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Streamside Reading Materials: Fishing Small Flies

Welcome to the first installment of Streamside Reading Materials, this will be a regular, recurring feature for The Eddy. Here is how it works: every other week or so, I will recommend a book or two for your reading pleasure. Sometimes it will be a book that I have just finished (such as today’s selection), other times it might be one of my all-time favorites. Occasionally, I will include a second recommendation that is a non-fishing book. Hey, I’m an English major, humor me, okay?

If the book or books sound good and you decide to add it to your angling library, consider using the custom links within the post. If you use these links, a small portion of the proceeds go back into The Eddy, helping to keep the site afloat and me happily married. Thanks in advance. Now, on to the recommendation…

Fishing Small Flies by Ed Engle

If you are familiar with John Gierach’s work, you may know the name Ed Engle. I remember reading Gierach’s classic chapter of Troutbum titled “Zen and the Art of Nymph Fishing” where he describes Engle teaching him how to fish nymphs on Colorado’s South Platte River. Engle is a guide on the Platte and the author of Fly Fishing the Tailwaters and Tying Small Flies, the predecessor and companion piece to Fishing Small Flies.

Engle is not a small-fly purist. Gierach’s foreword to the book describes a recent outing with Engle that consisted of tossing huge flies on a bass pond. But Engle definitely knows his stuff when it comes to fishing the small patterns. The book is chock full of great information about small insect biology, trout stream geography, and of course, fishing with feathered hooks size 18 and smaller. There is a great section (complete with illustrations) about using riseforms to determine what stage of an insect fish are keying on. The section about fishing small nymphs advocates both indicator and bobber-free (Engle calls this “freestyle nymphing”) tactics. The book also includes a discussion of the major small fly hatches (BWOs, PMDs, tricos, microcaddis, and midges) and how to fish the complete life cycle of each, from larva to egg-layer. That chapter alone, which includes some very informative illustrations, is worth the price of admission.


  1. I bought both "small fly" books last fall after hearing Engle's's interview on one of the fly fishing podcasts. I enjoyed them both very much. It seems like the interest in small flies is on the rise - along with the popularity of winter fisheries.

  2. I have Tying Small Flies on my list as my next purchase. FLy Fishing the tailwaters is also a great book. Fantastic description of the biology of aquatic insects in tailwater fisheries.