Review: 40 Great American Trout Flies

By Scott Richmond

When not on the water, one of the favorite pastimes of fly anglers is sorting through their flies, trying to pick and organize the most effective patterns.

My latest scheme has been working pretty well for me. I always carry one box of flies that are productive in rivers and lakes--in any season, for any species, in any place. I call it The Gold Box. I supplement The Gold Box with several other boxes that match specific hatches, species, seasons, and locations--selecting different boxes for different situations. So The Gold Box is not the only fly box I carry, but it is the only box I ALWAYS carry. When I'm fishing, about half of my fly selections come from The Gold Box.

The Gold Box has nine dry fly patterns and nine wet fly patterns; many patterns are in multiple sizes. Every pattern is tried-and-true and available in most fly shops.

What You'll Find

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks well of these 18 patterns, because Craig Schuhmann lists 16 of them his new book, 40 Great American Trout Flies.

There's a reason for this: anglers keep coming up with new trout flies, but time and experience winnows the patterns down to just a few, and the best flies--the reliable workhorses--rise to the top. If you were to pick a Top Forty out of those workhorses, you'd have the flies in this book.

If you've been fly fishing more than once or twice, however, you've probably figured out that it's not enough to have the right flies. You have to know when, how, and where to use them.

Fortunately, Schuhmann recognizes this. In the introduction, he quotes the great Gary La Fontaine: "The secret of assembling and maintaining a stock of flies designed to meet as many angling problems as possible is to remember the concept behind each one." So for each fly in 40 Great American Trout Flies, Schuhmann gives us the why behind the fly as well as the recipe and a couple of photos.

This approach makes 40 Great American Trout Flies useful and practical even if you don't tie your own flies. There's a lot of good information about what to do with all those patterns the folks in the fly shop sold you.

What you will not find here is a detailed how-to-tie guide. You get the recipe, text, and photos, but not the step-by-step. If you feel the need for step-by-step directions, search online or get a copy of Dave Hughes Trout Flies.

I'm going to give a special shout-out to Marlon Rampy for his outstanding photography, which beautifully and artfully complements Schuhmann's text, making the book a pleasure to own as well as an informative and practical resource.

Both men are professional fly guides from southern Oregon, so Northwest anglers can feel assured that 40 Great American Trout Flies covers their turf. Schuhmann recently became editor of Fly Fishing and Tying Journal.

The Bottom Line

Should be on every fly angler's bookshelf whether they tie their own flies or buy them.

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).