Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review: The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing

A deadly addition to the fly fishing arsenal.
I'm a reader. It took me a long time to start using digital books. My reluctance to e-read had to do with a belief that a book is so much more than a compilation of words. The value of a really good book is found not only in its words but also for the way it feels in the hand.

I like a book that feels compact and dense when held. Don't get me wrong, I also read books that feel wrong. But I really like a book with a critical mass that makes it feel like a weapon. Jason Bourne would have ended his fight with Desh much sooner had he traded that four hundred page, deckle-edged novel for something more compact, more lethal. Something like The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing by Kirk Deeter and Charlie Meyers.

I had seen this book on the shelf at the bookstore but resisted reading it. It wasn't like any "how to" book that I'd read before and I just couldn't get my head around how this deadly little tome might actually contain enough knowledge to warrant the seventeen dollar purchase price ($11ish on Amazon).

The book is organized into five sections covering casting, presentation, reading water, rigging flies and then the final section on everything else. Each section contains some of the book's 250 tips written in a very direct and conversational style. Each tip is penned by either Charlie or Kirk (their respective initials are at the end of each) and provides a unique point of view on each subject.

What I liked most about this book is the style and intent of the authors. As opposed to some academic tome on the subject of fly angling it feels like you're sitting around the fire at the end of a long day on the water, swilling beer and listening to your buddies talk about what worked and what didn't during the day.

Like most advice, especially from your goofball buddies, it's a take it or leave it sort of thing. Some ideas immediately click cause you've been there before, experienced the problem and can see how the tip might just work. Other's work because you've heard them twice before and now on the third try it's starting to sink in. Still others provide food for thought.

Here's a few samples of the tips and style of the book.

On wind knots & the Big Bang Theory:
....When I see the intricate mazes of highly complex, patterned knots that result from a micro-second lapse of concentration, it reinforces my belief that this whole delicately balanced universe may have indeed resulted from a massive explosion. -- K.D.
The ultimate casting advice (okay, this one is a bit preachy but it's spot on):
....Give me a good drift over a perfect cast, any day, and you'll catch more fish.... -- K.D.
Quoting Pat Dorsey:
...."The difference between a good fisherman and a great one is often no more than a BB" -- K.D. (If nymphing Steelhead teaches you only one thing it is that weight rules the day)
Daring to be different the tips all have unique names.
One of my favorite tips is #134: Raging Bull....You're standing on fish. Here Kirk talks about the fact that many anglers wade right in and cast to the far bank cause as everyone knows, that's where the fish are. Of course, they totally ignore the fact that the fish may have been right where they're standing before they eagerly waded in.

This was exactly the advice I got from the guide who taught me to nymph. As we approached the water, Mike (I can't recall his last name) instructed me to fish my way across to the seam we wanted to fish instead of wading through unfished water. Later as we worked our way upstream he nodded to a guy in a popular hole and said "That guy's standing where he ought to be fishing." Sage advice that has helped bring me fish over the years.

So, I give this book a solid recommendation with one caveat. I don't think this is a book for the beginner. You need some fly fishing context for the lessons contained within. You have to get out and make a bunch of mistakes and learn a few hard knocks lessons before I believe the advice will have the most positive impact. But I would highly recommend this book for someone who's on the journey to becoming an experienced fly angler.

Or anyone about to engage in mortal combat.

Full Disclosure: I received this book as part of the prize package for the TU/OBN/YPF/Simms Blogger Tour award. They then forced me to read it while Kirk Deeter was looking over my shoulder. Okay, that part is not true. But I did spend the better part of a week roaming around Yellowstone with Kirk and I consider him firmly on the friend list. Regardless of what influence you think free stuff and friendship have on me, I stand by my words.


  1. Absolutely. Great review of a great book.

  2. Hey Steve. I've look at this book a couple of times on the bookstore shelf. Guess I'll have to break down and get it.


    1. Sorry about that Mark, but yeah, it's worth it.

  3. Great review. I picked up a copy awhile back and find myself poking through it quite a bit...I always seem to pick something up that I missed in the first read.

  4. there is nothing like a good book that you can grab when you have questions.

    1. Agreed.

      In the future, please put your URL linked to your name not in the body of the post.

  5. Very cool Steve. I received my copy along with my TU membership last year. I agree with you on both counts. (Deadly weapon and good tips)

  6. I like to read books like this to see how I can adapt it to my finesse style of fishing spinning gear. Some things work regardless of the fishing tool used. The wading right in rule works no matter what you're holding.

    As for books/ebooks. Books are easier on me. I can concentrate better. Reading on screen, I lose interest half way down and will probably never go back.

    A little test, send someone an email with three questions, most important question last. The first will be fully answered. The second, kind of. The third might get ignored all together or barely touched upon. Been running this test for a dozen years. The theory holds.

    The same can be applied to reading books on screen. Attention wanes.

    1. What I like most about ebooks is the portability. I can carry a half dozen books on my iphone so I have reading material with me at all times. I find that so much of my interactions are done electronically today that while reading was the last to go, it will surely be totally electronic before long.

  7. I broke down and bought my copy about a month ago. Have been picking it up and reading bits at a time because there are certain things I want to let simmer, committing them to memory before moving along to another extra special morsel. I love the concept of the book, the experience behind this book, and yes, just as Steve said, I like the feel of certain books. This is one of them. I see this as one I want to keep close by and readily accessible.

    1. "I see this as one I want to keep close by and readily accessible."

      Jason Bourne would approve. Perhaps Kirk should sell holsters for it.