Originally created 05/17/98

Trio of books made to order for fly-rod fishing enthusiasts



My first rod and reel, a 1945 Christmas gift from my parents, were designed to cast cork-bodied "bugs" and tiny spinners trailed by wet flies for anything that would strike them.

Such was my introduction into fly fishing and an adult friend took me out on Lake Elizabeth off Kissingbower Road and gave me casting instructions. The lake had plenty of water and fish in it back then -- sadly, not so today.

Many of my friends got started in the fishing game much the same way, with some of them moving away from the ponds along whose edges we cast popping bugs for bream (and sometimes a bass) and into mountain streams.

Once there, they discovered tactics for rainbow, brook and brown trout required a basic understanding of entomology, feeding habits of the fish and much more skill in placing a microscopic, hand-tied creation in just the right way and right place.

If they were lucky, a fish would rise to their fly; if they were luckier, a fish would be hooked.

Back in those years, there were books on the subject of trout fishing, but most were too deep for the average pre-teen or early teen to understand.

Not so today. There is a creel-load of books to interest fly-casters and geared to beginners as well as veterans of the sport.

Here's a look at three of the newest: A Fly-Fishing Life by William G. Tapply, In Praise of Wild Trout, edited by Nick Lyons, and Joan Wulff's Fly-Casting Accuracy.

Let's first tap Tapply:

"I love to fish. When I cannot fish, I think about fishing. I cannot imagine not fishing. I would not be me if I did not fish."

So say all of us who are devotees to the sport, but I think Tapply has said it better than was said previously.

Here's a collection of 25 essays designed to stir the reader's own personal memories of fishing experiences, or perhaps whet his appetite to go in search of more. Tapply's stories are entertaining, amusing and educational as, armed with his favorite fly rod, he goes in search of not only trout, but sunfish, striped bass and other species in fresh and salt water.

He also is up-to-date as he chides the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals over their misguided, anti-fishing campaign tactics. And there's still a bit of the kid left in him, as it is in most of us, and his writing reflects it.

Here are 269 pages designed to be read either when one can't go fishing for whatever reason, or when one can and has a few moments before the bite starts.

A Fly-Fishing Life, by William G. Tapply, hardcover, 269 pp., from The Lyons Press, 31 West 21st Street, New York, N.Y. 10010, for $25.

QUICKLY, what are wild trout?

Well, none ever saw a fish hatchery in all their born days.

Hatchery trout, says Nick Lyons of the aforementioned Lyons Press, are "...pale shadows of the real thing."

I found my first wild trout in a northeast Georgia mountain stream hardly as wide as one could easily step over. The stream didn't have a name, but it did have wild brook trout, or so I was told.

Admittedly, I was disappointed by the trout's size -- tiny compared to the "catchable-sized" trout stocked from nearby Lake Burton Fish Hatchery -- but their coloration and fighting ability was something else on the appropriate light fly tackle.

Catch and release of those brightly colored little fish was definitely the order of the day those many years ago when releasing fish was still a novel idea.

There are still places in Georgia's mountain regions where one can catch wild trout, but carrying a hand-held Global Positioning Satellite receiver, or reliable compass, is necessary to get there from here.

Meanwhile, you can't do better than to peruse the 90-odd pages of Lyons' book and savor their contents written by fishermen who appreciate the uniqueness of their quarries.

Here's some of the best piscatorial prose (and poetry) ever written.

In Praise of Wild Trout, Edited by Nick Lyons, who is contributing 50 percent of all royalties to Trout Unlimited, The Federation of Fly Fishers, and Theodore Gordon Flyfishers. hardcover, 94 pp., from The Lyons Press, 31 West 21st Street, New York, N.Y. 10010, $20.

EVER WATCH a fly fisherman apparently effortlessly, automatically cast his artificial offering into strategic areas of a stream you'd swear couldn't be reached?

Ever try it yourself, trying to duplicate the other's every move, only to watch your fly entangle itself in overhead brush?

A woman who has devoted her life's work to developing an accurate casting technique and then sharing it through words and drawings in Fly-Casting Accuracy is Joan Wulff.

Within those 96 pages is a complete fishing education: From grammar school beginnings to college diploma on how to master your fly rod and not let it master you.

Easily understood drawings take the reader step-by-step toward "graduation."

I wish I'd had this book back in 1945 when I was learning the intricacies of handling such an outfit from scratch. Then I wouldn't have developed a sense of frustration that led me from fly-fishing to spin-fishing and bait-casting.

For 35 years, Joan Wulff has taught fly-fishing and, if there are any "graduates" of her school who read this, I am sure that they would offer whole-hearted recommendations about this book.

Joan Wulff's Fly-Casting Accuracy, paperback, 96 pp., from The Lyons Press, 31 West 21st St., New York, N.Y. 10010 for $12.95 ($20 cloth).