Aug 6, 2018

Book Review: Classic Steelhead Flies

The last book review I wrote about was Modern Steelhead Flies, so I figured it was also good to revisit one fly tying book that should be a staple in any steelhead junkies library. Call me nerdy, but I'm fascinated with the history and stories behind flies, techniques, and anglers who have brought the sport to where it is. If you read up on old literature it certainly becomes evident that times have indeed changed. However one thing remains true, and that is the effectiveness these classic patterns have today; especially in regards to summer-run steelhead. Besides, isn't vintage stuff resurging and becoming hip again?

John Shewey is an Oregon-based angler, renowned fly tier, photographer, and an author with hundreds of published pieces. His work is nothing short of impressive and Classic Steelhead Flies is undoubtedly admirable. The word "classic" is somewhat hard to attach to steelhead flies, especially as their history pales in comparison to classic Atlantic Salmon patterns that've been around for centuries. Although with advancements in synthetic materials, a bucktail or feather-wing fly from the 30's sure seems ancient by today's standards.  Shewey starts the book off by detailing our first introduction to steelhead during the settlers' manifest destiny to head west during the gold rush. He does a fantastic job of playing a historians role of chronicling influential anglers, and offering fun facts that embody the lore of targeting steelhead with a fly.     

Classic Steelhead Flies isn't exactly a detailed how-to, but rather it offers the history and practicality of great flies such as the Max Canyon, Purple Peril, Golden Demon, McMillan's Steelhead Caddis, and so many more. At the end of the book Shewey offers many helpful tying tips and tying lessons to clean up your flies and save you some headache- such as working with bronze mallard. Though not so much of a step-by-step, there are recipes for over 140 patterns within. Along with beautiful macro photography to accompany each fly, Shewey marries patterns with thoughtful backgrounds that give each page a unique perspective and feeling. 

I don't exactly credit myself as a successful steelheader as sometimes I just get lucky. However, I've moved past the attachment point of needing to catch a fish, and sometimes I'd just rather fish certain patterns associated with geographical locations and steelheading lore- For example, when I fish the Kalama River I tie on a Kalama Special, or when I go to the North Umpqua and fish a wet fly its often a Umpqua Special or Green Butt Skunk, and so forth. Obviously size and color play into what fly I select for the conditions at hand, but I've become more attached to catching fish on certain flies I regard as special, rather than just catching fish. While I still enjoy tying freestyle patterns, sometimes I just prefer to flip open Classic Steelhead Flies for inspiration and am often left at the tying bench for hours on end reading and tying.

Saw this Jungle Dragon in the book and had to tie one. Established in the 50's, still works today.

Cody Booth
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

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