Fly Fishing Equipment in Tackle Box

The Best Fly Fishing Books of 2021 (Reading List)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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One way to learn about fly fishing and all it has to offer is through one of the many best fly fishing books out there.

There is a wealth of information about learning how to start fly fishing, improving, and understanding the intricacies of flies, and discovering new places to fly fish and enjoy your passion.

Many Ways To Learn

Not all fly fishing books are step by step guides. Plenty of them you can take with you and read while you’re waiting for your best bite alarms to go off and lazing out in the shade.

Some are adventurous, thrilling, and take you on epic fly fishing journeys around the globe.

They whet your appetite for the next trip, and for me are the best way to stay connected to your passion in the winter months when waters are usually closed.

Are you lost in a sea of information?

Don’t get swept away by a tide of publications, join me as I dive straight into the best fly fishing books available below.

The Best Fly Fishing Books From The Review

Here is a quick look at our top three fly fishing books from the lineup…

Top Pick

The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing

Not only gives you great insights into each fishing destination, but also his tactics of how to catch each species, and a great understanding of what dedication to fly fishing means.

The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing

If there is one book to read from the review, it’s The Longest Silence by Tom McGuane.

The book is well written and ticks every box in my opinion.

It covers a huge range of species and environments, gives you insights into tactics and techniques, plus all the social and spiritual adventures fly fishing brings into your life.

Best Fly Tying Book

Essential Trout Flies

This fly fishing book holds the key to tying the right patterns to catch trout anywhere you can imagine, at any time of year.

Essential Trout Flies

The best fly tying book is Essential Trout Flies by Dave Hughes.

This book is a step by step guide to tying every fly you’ll ever need to catch trout with at any river in the world, at any time of year.

Not only does it teach you how to tie a fly, but also the nitty gritty on when and how to use them and what they imitate.

Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide

Best Fly Fishing Guidebook

A complete guide to fly fishing everywhere and covers both freshwater and saltwater, and a range of species from salmon to bonefish, tarpon to bass, and more.

Best Fly Fishing Guidebook

Best Fly Tying Book

The best fly tying book is Essential Trout Flies by Dave Hughes.

This book is a step by step guide to tying every fly you’ll ever need to catch trout with all over the world, at any time of year.

Not only does it teach you how to tie the flies, but also when and how to use them and what they imitate.

Top Pick

Our Best Fly Fishing Books

A River Runs through It and Other Stories

Beautifully written and incredibly inspiring. Reading it makes you want to get out into nature, walk through the woods, and find a river that’s teeming with fishes.

A River Runs through It and Other Stories

A River Runs through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean is a must-read book for every angler.

This fly fishing book was made famous by Robert Redford when he turned it into the 1992 film ‘A River Runs Through It’ starring Brad Pitt.

Story

The book, written by Norman Maclean with him as the main character, tells short stories of his childhood adventures in the American West in the early 1900s.

It’s based in Montana and tells a story of two brothers connected by fly fishing and emphasizes the connection between their fly fishing trips, nature, and god.

The stories not only cover a bit of fly fishing history and fly fishing technique but also run through fly casting on a metronome, as well as matching the hatch.

NOTE

It’s not a guide book per se, but there is fishing knowledge to be learned for fly fishers and fly casters in this fly fishing book.

Theme

This fly fishing book is beautifully written and incredibly inspiring.

Reading it makes you want to get out into nature, walk through the woods, and find rivers teeming with trout. I read it when I was a kid, and have watched the film over 100 times.

It’s the reason I went to Montana to become a fly fishing guide when I was 20 years old

Don’t Miss Out

If you haven’t read A River Runs through It and Other Stories and/or have only watched the film, then I highly recommend you read this book, as well as being a great story, it’ll inspire you to take your next fly fishing trip sooner rather than later, and you’ll learn a few tips along the way.

Even non-anglers will enjoy it, and it might even help them understand your obsession with fly fishing.

Pros

  • Great story of past Montana
  • Exceptionally well written and a fly fishing classic
  • Tips to improve your fly fishing in each story
  • Inspires you to go fly fishing
  • Great insight into the nature of fly fishing

Cons

  • Not very informative on fly fishing

Best Fly Tying Book

Essential Trout Flies

This fly fishing book holds the key to tying the right patterns to catch trout anywhere in the world, at any time of year.

Essential Trout Flies

If you’re a dedicated fly sport fisherman, you’re probably into tying a fly or at least thinking about becoming a fly tier.

The world of tying flies is a complex one, depending on species and where you fish, but wherever you are in the US, you’re never far from a river or stream.

Guide

This fly fishing book holds the key to tying the right patterns to catch trout anywhere in the world, at any time of year.

In the book, you’ll find the top 31 trout patterns from dry tackle, to nymphs and streamers, along with all their variations, giving you 217 fly patterns in total.

Each pattern is well illustrated with in depth analysis and step by step instructions of how to tie each pattern.

NOTE

The book also lets you know when and where to use a particular fly based on the seasons and fly hatches, which is key info a sport or fly fisherman needs.

Knowledge

If you tied every pattern in this fly fishing book, you’d have a few fly boxes full of every treat a fish could want, any river anywhere in the world, any time of year.

Having a box full of tasty treats like this is the key to success on every fly fishing trip.

There are no negatives to this book, it’s the perfect book for any fly fisher who wants to tie the best flies for different trouts the world over.

Pros

  • Contains 217 fly patterns with step by step instructions
  • Informs you which insects the fly patterns imitate
  • Lets you know when and how to spot the patterns
  • Has the top patterns to catch trouts anywhere and in any season
  • Well illustrated and with clear instructions

Cons

  • It only covers trout flies

Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die

One of the best ways to learn about new places to fish and the best way to transport yourself there from your armchair.

Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die

Reading fly fishing literature is one of the best ways to learn about new places to fly fish and the best way to transport yourself there from your armchair.

Every great angler I know dreams of new environments to fish in, myself included, and seeing pictures of the azure blue flats of Seychelles or crystal clear rivers in Bolivia full of Golden Dorado makes a fly fishers mouth water.

Story

Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die by Chris Santella is a novel that tells you all about the best places for fly fishing in the world.

The fly fishing book hits every continent and includes in depth analysis on destinations like Mongolia, Cuba, Florida, Seychelles, Australia, Norway, and many more.

Visuals

Each fly fishing destination featured includes: pictures, it’s fly fishing history, how to get there, where to stay, and stories from a passionate group of authors and authorities’ experiences there.

You’ll also be informed of the best time of year to take fly fishing trips, and what tackle you need whether it’s a particular dry fly, salmon flies, Gt flies – you name it, it’s covered.

For Travelers

If you’re a sport fisherman into travelling, Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die by Chris Santella is a must-read and should live on your coffee table too.

It’s also a great gift for anyone who loves the sport of fly fishing, as it’ll ignite their imagination and perhaps inspire a few more trips.

The only thing this book doesn’t cover is the fly fishing techniques used at each destination, you’ll get a gist of the technique from the stories, but you might want to do some more reading if you intend on travelling there.

Pros

  • Excellent information on some of the best fly fishing destinations
  • In-depth interviews from some of fly fishings gurus
  • Maps out the best places to fly fish in the world
  • Amazing photos of each location
  • All the info on travel and tackle you need to get to each place
  • Great descriptions and historical information about each destination

Cons

  • Not much information on how to nab the fish in each destination

Fly-Fishing the 41st: From Connecticut to Mongolia and Home Again: A Fisherman’s Odyssey

It’s full of information about each fly fishing technique the author uses in each destination, so every sport or fly fisherman can learn something about technique from reading this book.

Fly-Fishing the 41st: From Connecticut to Mongolia and Home Again: A Fisherman’s Odyssey

Fly-Fishing the 41st: From Connecticut to Mongolia and Home Again: A Fisherman’s Odyssey by James Prosek is another great piece of fly fishing literature.

It’s less of a pocket guide and more of an adventure story about the author as he sets off to fly fish his way around the globe, along the 41st parallel.

Story

In the book, he travels and fly fishes through Spain, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Japan, hitting some of the most untouched and remote fly fishing the world has to offer.

Every angler in the world dreams of finding untouched or new waters to fish in and should read this book as it transports you there, something every fly fisherman needs, especially in the depth of winter.

Theme

This is not one of those fly fishing books that are all about fishing though.

James Prosek is quite a great writer and uses descriptive language exceptionally well to make you feel as if you were there.

He talks about how fishing crosses cultural boundaries and is a universal language that only a fly fisherman and fishermen know.

You learn of all the enthusiastic and interesting people he meets through fishing along the way and tells hilarious stories of their time together.

Fly Fishing Techniques

The thing about this good book that makes it a great gift is that it’s full of information about each fly fishing technique he uses in each destination, so every sport or fly fisherman can learn something about technique from reading this book.

Pros

  • Beautifully written with amazing descriptive language
  • Awesome story of fishing around the world
  • Captures how fishing crosses cultures
  • Informative on fishing tactics
  • A lot of fun to read

Cons

  • More of an adventure than a guide book

L.L. Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing

If you read this Lyons Press published book, you’ll get an insight into how different fishes behave, which flies work when and why, the tackle you need to catch them, and the fly casting techniques all anglers should learn.

L.L. Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing

It’s quite hard to find fly fishing books that cover everything from tying a fly, tackle, fly casting technique, and fish biology, but the L.L. Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing, published by the Lyons Press, does a great job of it.

Focussed mainly on trout and bass fishing, this novel is a guidebook that is useful for all anglers, beginners, a fly tier, and pros alike.

If you read this book, you’ll get an insight into how different fishes behave, which flies work when and why, the tackle you need to catch them, and the fly casting techniques all anglers should learn.

The two sections of this fly fishing book I find particularly interesting are the entomology and the eleven habits of highly effective fly casters.

What is Entomology? 

Entomology is all about understanding the life cycle of the insects you’ll find on the water. The book takes you through when what type of flies are hatching, what they look like in each stage of their life cycle, how fish feed on them, how to tie a fly to match, and how to fish them properly.

Understanding this is key to being able to match the hatch when you’re fly fishing for different species, and a deep knowledge of this will turn fishless days into successful ones.

Eleven Habits

The eleven habits of highly effective fly casters section of the book is also great general fly fishing knowledge for all anglers. I have been fly casting since I was 3, and lord knows I picked up some bad habits along the way, but reading information like this allows you to correct your cast – or not get into the wrong habits at all.

Fly Tying

The only drawback to this book is that a lot of it is about tying flies, which is great for a fly tier, but not so useful for a beginner who needs more knowledge about fishing than tying.

The tackle section is also a little outdated, even though it was published in 2006.

The fly fishing tackle meta changes every year, so use it more as a guide for tackle than the gospel.

Pros

  • Covers everything you need to know about fly fishing
  • Includes casting, fly choice, entomology
  • Teaches you about fish and their behavior
  • Informative for both beginners and experts
  • Authors are some of the most knowledgeable fly fishermen in the world
  • Has an in-depth look a fly fishing for bass

Cons

  • A lot of the book is about fly tying
  • A little outdated in terms of tackle

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

In this fly fishing thriller, bird skins worth thousands of dollars apiece are stolen from the British Natural History Museum unharmed. Fly fishers and non-fly fishers alike will love this look into the secretive world of salmon fly tiers.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson is one of the best thriller fly fishing books around.

Story

In this book, Kirk Wallace Johnson takes you into the underground world of feathers and fly tying starting with a heist of rare bird skins taken from the British Natural History Museum unharmed.

It then flows into the obsessive, secretive world of fly tiers, their need for particular color feathers from these rare bird skins, and an understanding of why anyone would steal them from the British Natural History Museum.

Why? To sell the feathers, valued at thousands of dollars apiece, to a passionate group of salmon fly tiers who are trying to recreate salmon flies from the Victorian-era.

The unquenchable thirst of salmon fly tiers, and any young fly tier for that matter, has never been captured in any film or book that I know of before this book.

Theme

Fly anglers will empathize with the tiers in this book, and learn a lot about the world of exotic birds, rare bird trafficking, and how it all connects back to fly fishing.

If you’re looking for a thrilling book with a bit of history as a fly angler, you won’t be able to put this down. Non-fly fisher will love it too, my mum couldn’t stop talking about it after she read it.

You’re not going to learn much about fly casting technique or fly fishing from this book, but as a fly fisher, you’ll never look at a pile of feathers the same way again.

Pros

  • Takes a fly fisher into a world of feather trafficking
  • Thrilling and hard to put down
  • Provides an understanding of fly tying obsession
  • One of the few books that connect bird trafficking and fly fishing
  • Well written and a great story

Cons

  • You won’t learn much about how to fish by reading it

The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing

This book covers everything you need to know to start the sport of fly fishing with success and takes you through the cast, presentation, reading pocket water, selecting flies, fighting fish, and the gear you need to go with it.

The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing

Quite often, fly fishing books are written by pro anglers who forget that a not-so-great angler doesn’t quite have enough experience to understand exactly what they mean in their books, and might therefore struggle to learn the sport properly.

Theme

The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing was written to iron out how to fly fish in a clear and digestible manner so that novices can pick it up and use the fly fishing advice to understand what they need to do to fly fish successfully.

This book covers everything you need to know to start fly fishing with success and takes you through the cast, presentation, reading a river, selecting flies, fighting fish, and the gear you need to go with it.

Easy to Follow

Each section is thorough and easy to understand for any angler and gives you 240 tips overall to ensure all anglers who read it can cast well, present a fly properly, fly selection, know where fish sit in the water, and once hooked know how to fight them properly.

Knowledge

If an angler can master everything this book has to tell them, they will rarely have a day when they don’t catch any fish.

The book focuses on trout fishing and understandably so, as it’s the most popular species to target on the fly, but it would be nice to see fly fishing books that include other species as well like steelhead, bass, or salmon for example.

Pros

  • Goes through how to fly fish properly in clear steps
  • Covers everything from casting to fly presentation, fighting a fish, and more
  • An ideal book for fly fishing beginners to learn from
  • Also helpful for experts to find hidden tips they might not know

Cons

  • Only focuses on trout fishing

Top Pick

The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing

Not only gives you great insights into each fishing destination, but also his tactics of how to catch each species, and a great understanding of what dedication to fly fishing means.

The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing

The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing by Thomas McGuane is probably one of the best fly fishing books I have ever read, and I’d put it up there with The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Thomas McGuane, or Tom McGuane, as an author and great storyteller, is a force to be reckoned with and has published 10 books over 30 years, but Tom McGuane is more deviate to fly fishing than he is to writing, or so The Longest Silence would have you believe.

Thomas Mcguane has fished all over the world, for almost every species a fly angler might want to cast at, and this is a good book full of all his wonderful fly fishing stories of traveling the globe.

Theme

In the book, McGuane takes us from the flats of Florida to Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand, Russia, and even his childhood fishing grounds of Michigan and Rhode Island.

McGuane fishes alone, with friends, his son, and gives you insight into fishing writers like Roderick Haig-Brown or Isaak Walton, and into a fly fisherman’s mind.

He even begins to describe fishermen based on the fly they choose to use.

There are moments when McGuane has you laughing out loud, or sitting on the edge of your seat reading on to see if a permit eats his fly.

Insight and Tactics

McGuane not only gives you great insights into each fishing destination, but also his tactics of how to catch each species, and a great understanding of what dedication to fly fishing means.

This book is what inspired me to travel and become a fly fisherman since I read it at the age of 18.

I have cast a fly into the waters of every continent in the last 12 years, except Antarctica, but it’s still the to-do list.

Pros

  • Inspiring look into the diversity of global fly fishing
  • Well written with excellent descriptive language
  • Covers a large range of environments and species
  • Informative about how to catch each species
  • Good info on each destination

Cons

  • Not instructive about how to go fly fishing

Trout Bum

Each essay is also full of information about how he fishes and every angler will learn a trick or two through reading this book.

Trout Bum

Trout Bum by John Gierach is known as one of the best fly fishing books ever written and its reviews place it along with the classics like The River Why or A River Runs Through It.

This all thanks to John Gierach and his writing style.

Story

John Gierach is a great storyteller and an excellent writer and in this book, he does a great job to capture your imagination and somehow pulls you into being on his shoulder as he makes every cast to an unsuspecting catch in the rocky mountains.

While most of us go fly fishing on the weekend, or when we have some spare time, John Gierach is a Trout Bum, and fly fishing is a way of life.

John Gierach fishes every day of the year, no matter the season, and in the book, you’ll find story after story of him and his friends stalking different trouts.

Theme

Reading this book, you become aware of the emotional, spiritual, and humorous adventures that a life of fly fishing brings into his world, and you can’t help but begin to understand your life of fly fishing a bit more and empathize with him as he recounts his experiences in a wise witty manner.

Each essay is also full of information about how he fishes and every angler will learn a trick or two through reading his beautiful prose.

It’s not a how-to book though and isn’t a huge wealth of information around how to improve or get started fly fishing.

Pros

  • Witty and insight into the mind and spirit of a life of fly fishing
  • Well written stories around fly fishing every day of the year in the Rockies
  • Each story has a wealth of information for anglers
  • A trout fishing classic
  • A great portrayal of the natural world fly fishing puts into your life

Cons

  • Doesn’t discuss how to fly fish

Best Fly Fishing Guidebook

Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide

Tom Rosenbauer gives you a complete guide to fly fishing everywhere and covers both freshwater and saltwater, and a range of species from salmon to bonefish, tarpon to bass, and more.

Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide

Most fly fishing books tend to focus on one species like bass, and the thing I like most about this book by Tom Rosenbauer is that it has a wealth of information about a lot of species for a beginner to get their head around.

The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide by Tom Rosenbauer is Orvis’ best selling book and is a complete guide to fly fishing everywhere and covers both freshwater and saltwater, and a range of species from salmon to bonefish, tarpon to bass, and more.

Detailed Guide

Each species is covered from the tackle and flies you’ll need, to how to catch them. The book also covers casting, presentation, and how to fight all the species from oceanic giants like tarpon to wise old trout.

The book is full of over 400 beautiful photos of the included species and where they live, and it’s well written too.

Easy To Follow

A beginner will easily understand all the tips and tactics discussed so they can go and use them out on the water the next time they go fishing. If you’re trying to introduce someone to fishing, it’s a nice gift to pair with a nice fishing pole for beginners.

This is not the best book for experienced fly fishermen though, as it doesn’t go into a lot of detail. But, there will certainly be a species featured you probably haven’t caught yet with some information around it worth knowing.

Pros

  • Covers a large range of species and how to catch them
  • Includes info on gear, tactics, casting, presentation, and more
  • Well illustrated with great photos
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Discusses both fresh and saltwater fly fishing

Cons

  • Experienced fly fishermen might not find it that useful

Who Should Buy Fly Fishing Books?

If you’re learning the art of fly fishing, are a pro, or a young fly tier, you’ll gain a lot from reading fly fishing books…

There are guide books for beginners to hone their fly fishing skills with. Adventurous books about fly fishing around the globe to keep your passion going and the best way to learn fly tying is with a well-illustrated book and step by step instructions.

If you love fly fishing, fly fishing books are only going to help you love your passion more, make you better at it, and they can even take you places you’d have never dreamed of fly fishing – like the South-Sudan Ethiopian border where I found myself trying to catch Nile Perch and Tigerfish in virgin waters a few years ago.

Why Buy Fly Fishing Books?

Man on a Beach Marking a Book
Man on a Beach Marking a Book

Books, in general, are one of the best ways to learn about or share a passion you have with others.

If you love fly fishing or even the fly fishing industry there isn’t a better way to get a deeper understanding of it than reading books about it.

Fly fishing books can be instructive, teaching beginners how to cast or how to set the hook or even pros how to change their bad casting habits. The books also teach you about flies, the insects they imitate, fly selection, when to use them, how to use them with your fly rod.

General fly fishing knowledge, that if you go fishing without, is going to have a big impact on your success. You won’t be able to maintain even the best saltwater fly reel if you don’t know what steps to take.

For example, if you can’t show a trout what he wants to eat, you’re never going to catch him.

Perspective

Fly fishing books are also a great way to feel connected to your passion…

Growing up between England and Kenya, I never had fishing friends and would always fish alone.

I didn’t mind, catching fishes was far more important to me than hanging out with my mates, but fly fishing books showed me that there were others in this life as ruthlessly obsessed like me.

Learning Experience

Fly fishing books also open up what the world has to offer.

I never knew what a permit was, or that I could go and catch sea trout in Argentina until I read The Longest Silence.

Since reading it I’ve caught trout in India, GT’s in Seychelles, bonefish in the Bahamas, and I often think if I hadn’t read that book, I’d still be fishing the same lakes and small streams in England.

Summing Up

One thing every great fly fisherman has in common is that they have read a lot of fly fishing books.

But, you don’t just read fly fishing books to learn more, it is also about keeping that passionate flame burning when you don’t have the chance to get out and cast your rod.

If you love fly fishing, then all of the fly fishing books in the review are worth reading but if you’re wondering where to start after a particular book, then here is what I would suggest.

Top Pick

If you’re looking for a great set of adventures that is also a relaxing but informative read that takes you to places you haven’t fished yet, I recommend The Longest Silence.

It’s written beautifully, covers permit to salmon, the US to Argentina, and is a great insight into a life of fly fishing.

Best Fly Fishing Guidebook

If you’re looking for a guide book to learn from then the Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide is a great place to start. It covers a range of freshwater and saltwater species and everything you need to know about how to catch them.

Best Fly Tying Book

For any fly tying enthusiasts, Essential Trout Flies is one of the best fly fishing books for you. In it, you’ll find how to tie over 200 patterns that’ll have you catching trout all over the world at any time of year.

In case you need options for your fly fishing trips check out this portable fly rods.

Thanks a lot for reading my article about fly fishing books, I hope you enjoyed it and found the right fishing books for your needs.

Please share it around with all your fishing buddies and check out some of my other articles too, if you need something for fishing we have covered it right here.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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