101 Favorite Dry Flies: History, Tying Tips, and Fishing Strategies
By David Klausmeyer. Published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2013; $14.95 softbound.
A Book Review by Bud Bynack
“Inspiration comes to fly tyers in many different ways. Some evenings, it comes from the bottom of a glass, although the results usually tend to look seriously weird in the sober light of the next day. And sometimes, the muse of fly tying (the tenth muse, Supaphyne), even actually inspires someone to create something new, beautiful, and—better yet—effective as a way of actually catching fish.
But sometimes, the muse, though bidden and though invoked by libations, refuses to descend and whisper in a tyer’s ear. That’s when a book like Dave Klausmeyer’s 101 Favorite Dry Flies comes in handy. Basically, it’s a compendium of interesting ideas for creating variations on existing dry-fly trout patterns and a source of unusual approaches to the concept of the dry fly. The book consists of a picture of each fly, a fly recipe, and a very short text that relates a tying tip, a factoid of angling history associated with the fly, or a fishing strategy for using the fly. War and Peace it ain’t, but paging through it is a stimulating experience for a fly tyer. It makes you go “Hmmm.”
Anyone who actually has 101 favorite dry flies must suffer from a severe inability to make decisions, however what the title refers to here is not Klausmeyer’s own list of favorite dries, but the favorite patterns of a number of folks from around the country who contributed their favorites, plus a few of his own. Klausmeyer is the editor of Fly Tyer magazine, and he’s clearly made use of his Rolodex. It’s a diverse collection of contributors that ranges from Westerners such as Craig Mathews, Al and Gretchen Beatty, and guild member Al Ritt to East Coast tyers such as the guild’s president, Dave Brandt, and Mike Valla, both exponents of the traditional Catskill style, as well as Keith Fulsher, Ted Rogowski, Ed Shenk, and Jay “Fishy” Fullum. Actually, the complete list of contributors reads a lot like the membership list of the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild.
As a result of this diversity, there’s a lot going on, and what makes you go “Hmmm” may be different from what interests me, but here’s a quick overview. There are a fair number of traditional Catskill patterns among the 101, and they’re interesting as provocations to innovation because many of them riff on the established Catskill formula, rather than just rotely repeating the canonical ties. Valla’s Spirit of Harford Mills, a variation on the classic, palmered-bodied Spirit of Pittsford Mills, is an example, as are his Wemoc Adams and Batten Kill Badger. Indeed, one of the notable things about this compilation is that Klausmeyer has gone out of his way to promote the viability and vitality of flies tied in the Catskill style as an enduring element of the conceptual resources to which today’s tyers can turn for inspiration.
There are also riffs on other, more recent patterns, such as Dennis Potter’s Opal series, which uses opal Mirage tinsel for bodies on patterns such as the X-Caddis. There are patterns that exemplify interesting fly-design or tying twists, such as Gary LaFontaine’s Royal Double Wing, and there are patterns that push the envelope for how to think about tying a dry fly, including Sam Swink’s Transducer, which takes the two-tone-body concept of West Coast tyer Ralph Cutter’s E/C Caddis to the extreme of building both a nymph and an emerging mayfly dun on the same hook — in size 16, no less—and Al Ritt’s Struggling Green Drake, which builds a separate, articulated abdomen for the dry fly on a Wiggle Shank. Hmmm indeed.
You’ll probably find something here that makes you go “Hmmm,” too. As a source of inspiration, 101 Favorite Dry Flies is worth having in your library And it’s cheaper than good scotch.” -Bud Bynack