Book Review: “Tactical Fly Fishing” by Devin Olsen

To fully understand the genesis of Devin Olsen’s Tactical Fly Fishing, you need to include its subtitle: Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers. If you’re like me — someone who views competitions as a joy-of-fishing buzzkill — letting the C-word put you off would be a mistake. If you’re interested in becoming a better, more well-rounded angler, Tactical Fly Fishing is jam-packed with information you can use to catch more trout on your next outing.

Some of the best teachers I know take an “I’m not right, and I don’t know it all — I’m just showing you how I’d do it” approach to learning. Olsen nails this throughout the book. It’s particularly evident in the chapter, “Gear and Rigging.” He gives you an honest, broad overview, and leaves it to you to make equipment decisions.

Olsen divides river sections into water types: Pocketwater, Riffles, Runs, Pools, Glides, and Bankside Lies. He devotes a chapter to each, and this is where the book shines. He includes a few case studies, complete with photos, detailing how he approaches each water and situation. It’s almost like you’re tagging along for the lesson. With Olsen’s competition experience and success, you get the sense that there’s not a lot of water he hasn’t seen. Fish with confidence!

Regular readers of currentseams know that I don’t Euro-nymph, and given its competition roots, Euro-nymphing methodology plays an extensive role in this book. That doesn’t mean the information is irrelevant to us non-Euro nymphers — you just need to work through it as it applies to how you fish. Reading water is reading water, and since that’s such a huge part of catching, we all would do well to study the water type chapters. There’s also a short chapter on proven fly patterns; as a fly junkie I wish there were more (what, no soft hackles?).

Despite the Euro-nymphing emphasis, a consistent theme emerges throughout Tactical Fly Fishing: there is no one best way — and the best anglers take a fluid approach to the situations they are faced with and the methods they choose. In some stretches the book can get a little technical, but I’d rather have more information than not enough. (I first heard of Devin when I saw a picture of him weighing nymphs on a tiny scale. I remember thinking: this is a detail-oriented angler.) Olsen’s style is nonetheless conversational and easy-to-read. Tactical Fly Fishing is one of those references that I will be going back to on a regular basis.

It may seem like an easy gig — people send you books, you read them, then write about them — but it isn’t. You should know that I take this seriously, and if I didn’t like something, I’d tell you. So I’m telling you. This is a good one. All I ask of a how-to angling book is: teach me stuff I don’t know. Remind me of stuff I’ve forgotten. Don’t write like you’re trying to impress me with your knowledge of the thesaurus. Tactical Fly Fishing delivers. Tactical Fly Fishing — Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers by Devin Olsen, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-1982-7.

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Book Review: “The Hunt for Giant Trout” by Landon Mayer

Well now — who doesn’t want to catch a giant trout? My first encounter with such a creature came in the early 1970s on CT’s Salmon River: twenty-three and one-half inches of malevolent brown beast. Its perfectly formed paddle fins and striking colors indicated that this was a holdover of at least several seasons. I just happened to be the kid who stuck it.

Yes, I’m addicted. Not quite as big as that Salmon River fish, but within trophy range. Farmington River, September 2018.

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Catching a giant trout changes you, and once you decide to pursue them you realize that big fish really are different — one of the many instructive points author Landon Mayer makes in his new book, The Hunt For Giant Trout — 25 Best Places in the United States to Catch a Trophy.

The Hunt For Giant Trout is divided into two sections: Strategies & Techniques, and The Fisheries. Strategies & Techniques is loaded with information on giant trout behavior and how-to (from reading water to fighting tactics). As a seasoned angler, I often judge fly fishing books from the perspective of: tell me stuff I don’t already know. There’s plenty of that in the first section, and I’m always delighted to discover how much I still have to learn.

The Fisheries takes you on a tour of 25 locations where you can fulfill your quest. I like that Mayer involves locals (some big names in there!) in each writeup; who knows the water better than someone who fishes it a hundred days a year? Included are favorite patterns and recipes, from bulky articulated streamers to midge nymphs. (As a fly tying nerd I’m always curious about what other people are tying and throwing.)

Mayer’s style is conversational and easy to read. Everyone learns differently, and there’s a ton of visual reference, from photos to diagrams. Even if there weren’t pictures of Landon holding giant trout, you’d still come away with the notion that this guy knows what he’s talking about. Minor quibbles? Only three of the twenty-five fisheries are within driving distance of New England; the list skews heavily western U.S. Still, there’s more than enough quality information here for me heartily recommend The Hunt For Giant Trout. Now I’ve got to go back and read it again. Summer’s coming, and that two-footer is lurking under a logjam, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

One of the coolest parts of doing presentations at places like the Fly Fishing Show is that you get to meet people who have caught way more big trout than you. Like Landon. He’s also one of the nice guys in our sport. So get this book and read it. The Hunt for Giant Trout by Landon Mayer, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3719-7.

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Book Review: “Nymph Fishing” by George Daniel

I love the concept behind Nymph Fishing: after writing Dynamic Nymphing, George Daniel went out and did a whole bunch of nymph fishing with the goal of being able to write this terrific follow up — detailing what works and what doesn’t in multiple situations, what’s new, what’s changed, how he’s adapted, what he’s playing around with, all the while encouraging you to do the same.

And that may be what I like best about George. He’s a giver. He’s insatiably curious, and detail-oriented enough to take notes, write it all down, and share it. Now, I consider myself to be a pretty good nymph angler — I teach nymphing, after all — but it’s evident that George’s nymphing knowledge base far exceeds mine. What’s more, he doesn’t think he’s all that, and that gentle yet confident humility is what often marks the dividing line between a good teacher and a great teacher. His writing style is easy to read and follow, which cannot be said of many how-to fly fishing books.

You’ll find all kinds of leader diagrams, step-by-step photographic instruction, and fly patterns (hooray for tying nerds like me). But what I like best is that George squarely addresses the pros and cons of contact vs. suspension nymphing, and guess what — I can now point to one major nymphing authority who won’t snicker at me with my home brew yarn indicators dancing across the surface of the Farmington. Fly fishing is problem-solving, and there are many, many ways to do so.

The copy of Nymph Fishing they sent me had a big sticker on the cover that read, “REVIEW COPY NOT FOR RESALE NON RETURNABLE.” Yeah, right. This one’s mine. You’ll have to get your own.

In the interest of full disclosure, George is a friend. Those of you who know me, though, know I’m a straight shooter. This is an excellent book, and if you want to become a better nympher, you should be reading it. Nymph Fishing by George Daniel, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-1826-4

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