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Rick Keam:  

Rick Keam

Hooked on Books

I am told there are more English-language books on fishing than on any other sport except cricket, and more of them are about fly fishing than other kinds of angling.

Most of us start off buying books in the ever-hopeful quest to find out ‘how it’s done’. As the variety of fly fishing experiences and techniques continues to grow, so does the demand for knowledge. Later comes an appreciation of good writing for its own sake. After a few years, almost without thinking about it, you find you’re on the way to accumulating a library.

Some people get hooked by the collector bug and drawn into the world of antiquarian booksellers, catalogues and auctions. Follow this to the extreme and you’d never actually read a book (let alone sign your name in it) for fear of affecting its mint-condition investment value. Most of my own collection
are proudly dog-eared and torn, because they have been read and consulted repeatedly over the years. All books of any worth contain complexities that take time to assimilate. You need to build up enough angling experience to have pegs to hang all that information on, and to go back to your references every so often to see if they make new sense.

Most of the current wave of fly fishing books are American. The best are full of energy and useful knowledge. But don’t assume that everything in them is applicable to Australian situations-there are lots of traps for inexperienced players. The Americans didn’t get to where they are through an unquestioning adherence to everything British, nor will Aussiefly fishing really come to terms with its own special challenges through an unquestioning adherence to everything American.

So where does a newcomer start, and what new books could the rest of us think about buying? Here are some suggestions. Apologies to the hundreds of excellent authors not mentioned!

Beginners Guides

For trout fishing it is hard to go past Rob Sloane’s Fly Fishing Fundamentals. For saltwater fly its new companion volume, Peter Morse’s Saltwater Fly Fishing Fundamentals, promises to be equally useful. Lefty Kreh’s long-established Fly Fishing in Salt Water is a good general back-up.

General and Celebratory

Perhaps it’s the title that’s caused John Merwin’s The New American Trout Fishing (1994) to be overlooked in this country. For the reasonably experienced fly fisher with enough pegs to hang it on, this book is absolutely outstanding, packed full of solid practical and historical information that is by no means limited to America. The 1997 Macmillan paperback edition is exceptional value. $39.95

Advance reaction to Philip Weigall’s new The River Behind the Hill–part overview and guide, part personal journey-promises well for its future. See the comments elsewhere in this Catalogue.

Australian Classics

David Scholes’ Fly-fisher in Tasmania (1961) was an astonishing tour-de-force by a previously unpublished author still in his 30s at the time, and the scientific and practical content still holds up well today. The Way of an Angler (1963) mixed on-stream insight with superb writing. Both books were skillfully self-illustrated and rank with the world’s best. The 1993 reprints by Innovator Tackle sacrifice some photographic clarity, but should be essentials in any collection. Grab them while they last.

When it comes to fine literature, the best purely celebratory account of Australian fly fishing is Douglas Stewart’s The Seven Rivers (1966), extracts of which were published as Fishing Around the Monaro (1978). A sheer delight, but until the publishers wake up to the potential for a reprint, you’ll
need the help of an antiquarian bookseller to locate either of them. The same applies to the more humble but very enjoyable angling autobiography of Qantas pioneer Sir Hudson (‘Huddy’) Fysh, Round the Bend in the Stream (1968), with its valuable record of summers on the Thredbo and Snowy at The Creel.

In-Depth Studies

The current reprint of Vincent Marinaro’s In the Ring of the Rise (1976) should not be missed. Unfortunately his groundbreaking A Modern Dry-Fly Code (1950) has not been reissued since 1970, though you may be lucky enough to find a copy on the antiquarian market. Marinaro is the very model
of the intelligent, observant fly fisher. The style and approach of his books influenced David Scholes in Australia and John Goddard and Brian Clarke’s collaboration The Trout and the Fly (1980) in Britain.

Regional Knowledge

Tony Ritchie’s modestly produced books Finding Feeding Trout and Dry Fly Fishing for Trout follow the Scholes tradition of blending scientific homework with practical fishing insight. Very high information content, not limited to Tasmania.

No visitor to NZ should ignore Les Hill and Graeme Marshall’s collaborations Stalking Trout and Catching Trout, Les Hill’s Stalking Stillwaters, and the paperback area guides by John Kent and Patti Magnano Madsen.

Fly Tying

The vast literature of fly tying demands a page in its own right, but Leeson & Schollmeyer’s monumental new Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference will set the international standard for years to come, and Peter Leuver’s beautifully designed Fur and Feather remains the essential Australian reference.

Happy Hunting!


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