For those obsessed with reading, acquiring, and rereading good fly tying, fly fishing, and books in general, this ongoing series will be for you. I have always loved a good book, and when I started fly tying books became more than a source of knowledge of materials and techniques, but it became inspiration. I recommend that any beginner tyer to tie their way through the book. It is a great way to walk in the authors shoes. The next time you read through it, it will be that much more profound, and the nuances of technique really become evident.
Each week I’m going to do a short review of 1 fly tying book, and 1 fly fishing book. There may be an extra added, but once I do the review, I will add the books on my “Book Shelf” page which will be added later for easy reference. A fly tyer can never have too many books. Some of the books that will be featured are available in the shop, although some you will have to track down through fly shops or websites.
Fly Tying Book Review: Naturally Artificial Signature Flies by Vince Wilcox
Vince Wilcox is the owner of Wiley’s Flies Fly Shop in Ray Brook New York, an author of two books and countless magazine articles, signature fly designer for Idlywilde Flies and Umpqua Feather Merchants, and guide on several waters across the country. His style of fly tying is very unique in his early adaptations of synthetic materials to make flies both effective and durable.
This book is in spiral bound form, and should not be overlooked. Early on, these were not my favorite types of books, but it should be noted that fly tying books- especially those for beginners, should be mandatory as they lay perfectly flat and take up minimal room on the desk next to a fly tying vise. The pages open fully and you need not worry about cracking the book spine.
This book is laid out in a very efficient, easy to read manner. Each fly that is featured has a difficulty scale, the estimated time to tie by skill level, a general commentary or history of the pattern and its variants, as well as a complete break down of the materials used. The book is beautifully photographed and narrated so any level of fly tyer can tie these flies. These are very much guide style flies, there is no pomp and circumstance to these patterns. They are innovative and effective without excess polishing or fancy.
You might not necessarily know it by their names, but these flies have been sold by the thousands. Names like the Lint Bug, and Little Green Machine and Superman are equally silly and deadly. When seeing Wilcox’ designs are probably the nightmares of the naturalist fly tyer. It is not that natural materials are absent from his designs, but rather the fact that when he can substitute a synthetic material to gain durability, ease of use, consistency, or fishyness for a lack of a better word- he does so unapologetically.
This is probably the reason the only non 5 star review on Amazon is written by someone named Catskills Angler- quite frankly his flies go against the status quo. I like that. Unlike the reviewer who writes: “ Despite the inflated claims for their effectiveness, these flies are designed from the tier’s point of view rather than from the trout’s.” I completely disagree, if anything these flies are exceedingly more appealing to trout than the tier. Some of the patterns come across as too simple, but that present the absolute correct size, color, proportion, and triggers that is likely to grab a trouts attention.
Being a custom tyer myself, I have limited free time at the vise, so when I sit down to tie a fly I’m often drawn to flies that are aesthetically pleasing to me. They are often time consuming, and after time spent on the water, many times I walk away knowing I left fish in the net if I had just had a box full of simpler, fish first flies- or what I now refer to as F³. These are the types of flies everyone should have in their boxes. They are unassuming fish catchers. The Lint Bug is probably the very definition of this. Nothing more than some dubbing, a rib, and a flashback but it can imitate a midge, a baetis, a sow bug, a caddis larva, or a scud. In an hour you can tie up more than 2 dozen while sipping a bear and breaking to watch the replay. Open the book and look at these flies not as the next top Instagram fly, but the one’s in the $$$$ box you don’t show to even your best fishing buddy. “What did you catch it on?”- “Superman”.
My conclusion: This might be the best tying book you’ve never heard of, or picked it up to leaf through and walked away. You have to understand Vince’s 30 plus years experience as a guide, outfitter, fly designer, and author to start understanding the nuance of these seemingly shallow designs. There doesn’t appear to be much to them, but study them closer and you’ll start learning from someone who has tied tens of thousands of flies. Definitely deserving of a place on your book shelf, and that is why I chose this book to review as the first addition to my Book Shelf HERE.
This book is available in the shop, click HERE to purchase.
If you would like me to review any particular favorite book of yours, or maybe a book you heard about but don’t own yet- comment below. Hopefully I’ll be doing 1-2 of these a week.