The Gilly’ A flyfisher’s guide
Compiled and edited by Alfred G. Davy
Frank Amato Publications
21 chapters, 184 pages.
If one were to judge a book by its cover, this one is a beauty. Hatheume Lake at sunrise greets me every time I pick up this book, and I’ve been picking it up for nearly two decades now. This is a meat and potatoes fly fishing book focussed mostly on techniques used on the Kamloops area lakes, but there are sections on streams and even ocean fishing.
The first few chapters focus on the basics: how to fish a lake, what equipment you need to be familiar with, and the basics of fly casting. Chapter one plies the waters of perhaps two of the most important questions facing fly fishers: Where to fish and when to change flies. The subjects of lake ecology and entomology are covered in a straightforward way that a novice can understand, yet which an experienced fisher would appreciate, to give straightforward and proven strategies for productively exploring and fishing lakes. Chapter two covers rods, lines, reels, leaders and knots. There are several fitting hand drawn pictures in each chapter that not only give valuable instruction, but also give the book a feeling of being connected with the traditions of much older books on fly fishing. The chapter on casting is brief, and is a place to start, but is certainly no substitute for the caring instruction of one’s father or a patient casting instructor. But casting is rarely where we start when fly fishing lakes, so the trolling chapter is appropriately placed as the last set of instruction before heading into sections dedicated to specific groups of insect life. The trolling chapter also features a suitably varied selection of flies which most of us can easily tie and will find productive on most days on the water. As a place to start, and as a great jumping off point for more options in the fly box, this sets the scene for what is to come.
The next nine chapters focus on the main food items available to trout in our lakes. Each begins with a fishing tale as a way to introduce these aquatic creatures which are then discussed from three basic angles: one, their habitat and life cycle; two, the fly patterns; three, the presentation techniques. Each chapter ends with a detailed entomological profile. Doug Porter is consulted for the first chapter on shrimp, an irresistible food source for trout. Jim Crawford, Alf Davy and Tim Tullis give insight into the chironoids – both floating and sinking line techniques are covered. I really enjoy the sinking line techniques on tough days. Mayflies are covered by Brian Chan, a well known expert on all things buggy and fishy. Jim Crawford relates a heart-wrenching tale of fishing damsel flies on Stump Lake in June, poor guy. Big food items like dragons, caddis, and leeches are also described. The leech chapter enthusiastically celebrates the eastern brook trout as a sport fish found along side rainbows in many of our lakes. Ralph Shaw’s chapter is on my favourite fly, the Tom Thumb, and there is even a chapter on the water boatman.
Then there are a few chapters with a more West Coast focus. For those after insight and stories on the fish of a thousand casts, you will not be disappointed. The basics of both wet fly and summer dry fly steelhead fishing are covered in two separate chapters. I have yet to catch the oncorhynchus mykiss, but I found these techniques deadly for trout in my local streams, especially the basic ways to anticipate locations of trout likely to aggressively take a fly. Barry Thornton gives us an exciting chapter on chasing saltwater salmon on the fly, while Tom Murray spreads “beach fever” with stories of how to hunt the searun cutthroat on calm autumn days. There is even a chapter focussed on the time when few of us fish and when most fish are enthusiastically feeding- at night. While each of these chapters gives wise advice on flies worth tying and places worth trying, perhaps the most important is the last called “A Complete Angler” which focuses on the ethical responsibilities and duties of the angler.
Like I said, this is a fly fishing book, so if you are looking for fly tying techniques, you may be disappointed; however, at the end, there is a comprehensive set of colour photos of effective flies for all the fishing situations covered in the previous chapters. On the back of each plate of flies is the recipe card for each fly. In all, sixty trout flies are described in detail, as well as fourteen steelhead flies, and four saltwater salmon flies.
The book ends with images to echo and complete the beautiful scene on the front cover. The pictures of two well proportioned trout leave you with the feeling that perhaps you should re-read a few sections and then head out to your favourite fishing spot. One is a nine pound Kamloops trout that looks like a silver and pink hued torpedo, and the other is a Bulkley doe caught on a dry still pinned in its jaw. Oh how such dreams may begin.
For its content, I’d recommend this book to any fly fisher, young or old, emerging or experienced. It is a wonderful read for its stories and its insight. Another bonus of purchasing this book is that, while its publication was funded jointly by the BCFFF, Alfred Davy and some of the contributors, the royalties are used for the enhancement and conservation of fish and fishing in B.C.
I wish I had a hard cover of this book. Back in the late 80’s my father got this book for ten bucks, and I managed to have it find a way onto my book shelf. This is the book that turned me from being a fisherman to being a student of fly fishing. Perhaps one day I’ll return it, or more likely pass it on to the next generation of fly fishers I hope emerge in my future family.