Recently, I picked up 3 fly fishing or tying books. Two of the books are established titles and one is new. Generally, I enjoyed each book for different reasons. In each of this reviews I will provide a general description and pros/cons. We will start will the titanic book called "Fly Patterns" by Randall and Mary Kaufman. The Kaufmans have been a name in the industry for as long as I can remember. Although their shop is no longer, their name lives on in the pages of this text.
There is no dancing around with this book - it is what it's title says it is. It's a massive book with page after page of flies and their recipes. From page 29 to 435 are chapters of flies organized by dries, nymphs, emergers, streamers, steelhead, warmwater, and saltwater. Each page contains 9 color photographs of flies with its recipe below each picture. Note, this is not a resource for learning how to tie flies. Although it does contain some helpful introductory descriptions of materials and hooks etcetera, this is just an encyclopedia of patterns. If you want a source of inspiration or if you are looking for a recipe for a classic pattern, this is your book. Now for pros/cons.
I'm pretty neurotic about flies and fly tying, so I'm comfortable saying that I'm familiar with most patterns out there. With the birth of blogs etcetera there has been an uptick in fly pattern design. Now, if you're all over the tying blogs and forums you will quickly notice that the newest patterns are not included in this book. While there are many modern patterns represented, this book clearly focuses on the mass produced patterns. Most of the patterns are ones I had seen before. To be sure, there were many I hadn't seen, but most were familiar. Did I know the recipes before this book, absolutely not, at least not until now. So, if you're looking for the new hot pattern this is not for you. However, if you're looking for that "new pattern's" lineage this is the book. Most of the cool creative patterns out there now are merely adaptations of the styles found in these pages. Are you looking to start your own lineage or haves fishing situation that calls for a unique pattern but your are not sure where to look for design ideas - start here. Steal some of the parts of proven patterns that may have gone stale but have strength in design and innovate from there.
It's huge. It's expensive. It doesn't contain all the newest hot patterns (but see above). It's saltwater section and warmwater section is a little weak (this is a trout pattern heavy book). It appears to be focused on patterns used west of the Rockies and there are some errors (not many however, especially in light of how many patterns). None of those are particularly problematic. My primary criticisms are that it can get a little repetitive. For instance, there seem to be 30 stimulators represented (slight exaggeration). For patterns like that I would prefer to see a couple variations followed by and editorial note with tips on how to alter it with different materials. Also, along a similar line, I'd like to see more notes following the patterns. I would like to see the recipe and then see a note saying "that's the template now try it this way..." The fun in fly tying is the creativity side to it. Sure, part of the fun is coming up with the alternative yourself. But I'd like to know what Randall or Mary Kaufman think might work. I'm of the school of thought that believes creative ideas beget creative ideas and the Kaufman's have created some powerful patterns (Kaufman stone anyone).
Worth having in the library but I wouldn't call it a "must have" unless you are REALLY into flies. I will probably burn quite a bit of time staring at its pages but I'm weird about flies. If you enjoyed flipping through Kaufman's former catalog you will certainly enjoy this book.
Until next time,