Fly-Fish Better

Reviewed by Eric Hillerns

Art Scheck has authored books on fly tying and rod building, and has edited fly-fishing periodicals including Scientific Anglers, Fly Fishing Quarterly, American Angler, and Fly Tyer. He also finds some time to go fishing.

His newest effort, Fly-Fish Better: Practical Advice on Tackle, Methods and Flies, draws upon this considerable experience to explode many of the myths created by the fly-fishing industry. He also bridges some gaps in many anglers' knowledge.

Treading Lightly Over Delicate Ground

Given his relationship with major advertisers (who funded the publications that employed him), this is delicate ground--over which Scheck treads lightly. He doesn't name names, yet he provides examples with lithe humor. His common sense approach to technology "Cast 90 Feet -- Whether or Not You Want To" and "A Comfortable Load" challenges equipment manufacturers' claims that "better" is, in fact, always better. These are chapters that will help newcomers purchase gear appropriate for their experience level and type of fishing.

Lessons from the Salt

While Fly-Fish Better focuses on freshwater angling, Scheck shares many valuable insights from saltwater fishing. For example, in the chapters "Basic Leadership Skills," "Saltwater Rigging for Freshwater Fishing," and "The Last Link," his exhaustive approach to strength-testing knots and improved leader-building formulas will benefit flyrodders at every level. Step-by-step photographs make written descriptions easy to follow. The chapter "Lessons from the Salt" makes a compelling argument that trout and panfish anglers can--and should--think differently about how they approach freshwater situations.

For the freshwater angler with no saltwater experience, this book provides insights proven in the most demanding of angling conditions. It's not always about catching more fish, but rather about how to slash time spent changing and modifying leaders and tippets on the water, or how to strengthen knot and material connections, or ways to reduce unnecessary pressure on the fish.

Lessons from Experience

The balance of Fly-Fish Better provides helpful advice that can only come from experience. Scheck makes no claims that this should serve as a substitute for trial and error on the water. After all, these are the methods that work for Art Scheck. Whether they work for you and me is another matter.

In his 2003 book, A Fishing Life is Hard Work, Art Scheck muses, "We forget that fishing, like politics, is local. Each of us finds something that works for two weeks in a five-acre pond and thinks that he has uncovered a truth universal and eternal."

Whether fishing long leaders for wary spring-creek trout or lobbing poppers for hefty bass in warmer waters, there is that moment when each of us thinks we have "uncovered a truth universal and eternal." In Fly-Fish Better: Practical Advice on Tackle, Methods and Flies, Art Scheck nudges freshwater anglers to think a bit differently about the things that can work for them--if only for a couple of weeks.

This book has good advice for the novice, provides a framework for intermediate anglers, and is a solid reminder for the expert.