Barr Flies

Reviewed by Glenn Zinkus

No, you won't find lurid tales of nightclub and saloon denizens in John Barr's book, Barr Flies.

Instead you will find almost two dozen fly patterns and their variations.

The Copper John and Beyond

The first twenty chapters of Barr Flies focus on a single pattern for each chapter, with a number of pattern variations at the end of each chapter. All combined, this makes for more than six dozen fly patterns with very detailed tying instructions. The author adds value by providing tying tips while describing the complex tying steps.

Fly patterns include Barr's most successful flies, including the Copper John and its variations, Barr Emerger, Caddis Larva, Graphic Caddis, Vis A Dun, Web Wing Caddis, B/C Hopper, and others.

In addition to the tying instructions, he provides the background on how he developed these patterns. Many tiers will find the evolution of his well known patterns fascinating. You'll also find tips on fishing Barr's flies.

The final chapter provides instructions for fishing multiple fly rigs to maximize fish-catching potential. He treats subjects such as combinations of duns, emergers, hoppers, streamers and other flies in combinations with the same enthusiasm and careful teachings as he does his fly tying.

An Arsenal of Confidence Flies

The patterns detailed in this book represent a compilation of "confidence" flies. Barr comments that he has faith in these flies to catch heavily pressured trout throughout the Rockies. I would certainly extrapolate successful use of these flies well beyond the Rockies and the American West.

Photos by photographer Charlie Craven and the drawings throughout are especially well done. Every step of tying a particular fly is captured in a photograph with appropriate step-by-step instructions that can be appreciated by both novice and experienced tiers.

If you want to be well-armed while on the trout stream, look at John's fly boxes at the end of the book. The photographs and notes on his hatch box, nymph box, and other well stocked fly boxes provide a good model for any angler who wants to catch trout.

The Bottom Line

Barr's treatment of fly combinations, such as his instructions and tips for fishing a three-fly rig, empowers anglers with the techniques to hook more fish. These remind me of lessons ingrained years back by a series of guides in differing locales. I use those lessons to this day, and Barr's notes will do the same in years to come.

This book is outstanding; it leaves me wanting more of Barr's patterns and further notes on his approach to fly design. My only complaint is one of personal preference: I favor pattern books that have a spiral binding for easier use at the tying desk.

Glenn Zinkus is an avid angler from Oregon. When not engaged in piscatorial pursuits, he may be finding birds behind his Brittanies; or attending to business that often has him traveling. While traveling he lives vicariously through the Westfly contributors.