Fishing Small Flies

Reviewed by Hugh O'Donnell

Some of life's little mysteries never get cleared up. But Ed Engle clears up fly fishing mysteries one after the other in his book Fishing Small Flies.

At first glance this might appear to be a narrow-niche book on a subject many fly fishers feel they can safely ignore. Take a closer look, however, and Fishing Small Flies reveals tactics and techniques that anglers of any skill level can use--regardless of the size of the fly they're casting.

Instilling Confidence Through Understanding

Confidence is important to fly anglers. That confidence doesn't come from just catching fish, but from understanding the fishing environment, including the waters we float and wade.

Thus Engle's first chapter is a concise explanation of river anatomy. He clearly explains the complexities of tailwater temperature management and the differences between spring creeks, freestone streams, and stillwaters. Prior to reading this chapter, I had a reasonably functional understanding of the different types of rivers, but in the space of a few introductory pages, I was drawn into a new and deeper comprehension that allows me to approach these waters with greater confidence.

The chapter on fish observation is worth the price of the book. Engle's description of rises and his advocacy of small binoculars in conjunction with polarized glasses quickens the blood of any trout hunter.

In the heart of the book, Engle discusses nymphing, dry fly fishing, "in-the-film" fishing, as well as hooking, playing, and landing trout. While the subject is fishing with small flies, you'll learn plenty that applies to fishing with larger flies, too.

Engle advocates putting as little between you and the trout as possible. You can almost see him shaking his head at the catalog models who clank along the streambank with enough gear to scare away any fish that might inhale the small flies Engle's talking about. He dares you to use 7X tippet; if you take up that challenge and follow his recommendations for fighting fish on light line, you will succeed.

Final chapters describe in satisfying detail major small fly hatches and fishing style. He also includes a bibliography for anyone who wants to pursue small flies further.

Photos by the author and drawings by Dave Hall and Caroline Stover clarify Engle's instruction without confusing the reader. Color photos of the flies under discussion leave nothing to the imagination. It's all there.

Complimentary to Tying Small Flies

Engle earlier published a companion volume, Tying Small Flies. Reliable sources tell me their tying was greatly improved by reading that book. You can read a 0825review on Westfly.

Evenings of Good Reading

Engle is a buddy of Colorado essayist John Gierach, and legendary fly-tier and former music teacher A.K. Best. Rocky Mountain trout anglers know him as a reliable and prolific writer who is just getting the national recognition he deserves.

Fishing Small Flies will satisfy you evening after evening, and reading after reading with fishing trips interspersed.