If you want to learn how to tie and fish wet flies, soft hackles, and fuzzy nymphs for trout, you can start by reading The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles by Sylvester Nemes and Wet Flies: Tying and Fishing Soft-Hackles, Winged and Wingless Wets, and Fuzzy Nymphs by Dave Hughes. That’s what I did a long time ago, and I’m a better angler for it.
Too many fly fishing how-to books read like the dictionary — or worse, a quantum physics monograph. Not the case here. Both Hughes and Nemes write with a conversational style, perfectly weaving anecdotes with critical know-how.
The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles is a combination of two of Nemes’ earlier works. It’s a pattern book for sure, but there’s also plenty of relevant storytelling. It’s loaded with peals of wisdom (“If you have never tied flies before, I urge you to start immediately. The practice is exhilarating.”) and hidden gems like using North Country spiders for steelhead. The purchase price alone is worth being able to tell someone that you’re catching all those trout on a size 20 Smut No. 1.
Hughes’ Wet Flies is likewise a pattern book, with multiple step-by-step photos and clear instructions. But it also covers history, wet fly types, and how to fish them. It’s a user-friendly read that exudes confidence in the patterns and the methods. My only complaint is that it’s a more western US-centric view of the subject. But wherever you live, you’ll find Wet Flies relevant (“Trout aren’t interested in neatness”). Note that there is now a second edition of Wet Flies, with new photos and patterns. I haven’t read it; I trust that it’s pretty darned good, too.