A DVD Spey lesson; Fauceglia's mayflies; Chico's flats lessons
Trout Hunter By René Harrop (Pruett Publishing: 2003; 303-449-4919; www.pruettpublishing.com) 224 pp.; hardcover; $44.95 It's astounding how differently we each see and sense. Consider: For as often as they prove cases in court, "eye-witness" accounts are notoriously inaccurate; but Leonardo Da Vinci's vision could apparently stop the motion of bird wings in flight, so there. Five years ago, I spent much of an hour watching René Harrop on the Henry's Fork. I didn't actually see him fish, if that means casting and catching.But what I did was watch him watching-waiting as he studied the river. Something else was going on that I couldn't quite grasp-more active than meditation, not so obvious as prayer-but at last I could sit still no longer, so I hurried down to the river to do my best, and mostly played a guessing game. There's the difference between myself and René, as I would learn by reading Trout Hunter, a distilled compilation of Harrop's articles addressing insects, flies and strategies. Although derived primarily from the author's long experience on premier Western rivers such as the Henry's Fork, it's difficult to imagine any trout water where his lessons wouldn't apply. It's apt that Andre Puyans introduces his friend's collection. Hunters both, and two of the keenest anglers I've met, Harrop and Puyans together have spent more than a century discovering the lives of their prey: observing, analyzing and synthesizing and then constructing conclusions to test and test again. Often the result is a tactic or fly that extracts absolute essentials from a confusion of factors. I think Hunter's content and design are other examples. Harrop aims to achieve in prose what he does in tying, carefully extracting fundamentals from a complex problem, without reducing it to pabulum; so each paragraph is separated from the other, an arrangement that helps emphasize how many are simple summaries of consequences. But much of this book is philosophical, and presents the fly fisher as hunter, native to the wild world, distinguished from otters and herons less by technique than by the capacity for wonder, thought and appreciation. Reading these, I remembered watching Harrop watching, and recognized that a true trout hunter is a reverent predator. The Art of Spey Casting: A Film by Jeffrey Pill Hosted by Lani Waller, with appearances by Simon Gawesworth, Mel Krieger, Chris King, Way Yin, Steve Choate and many others (Miracle Productions: 2005; 800-874-4171) Available in NTSC and PAL formats 3 hours 30 minutes; $34.95 Several issues back I reviewed Simon Gawesworth's Spey Casting. There I suggested that, given how Spey casts change planes, axes and altitude, a video would sure help somebody learn. But try a DVD instead. DVD's offer clearer images, easier navigation and a larger storage capacity, and as a teaching tool the DVD options add benefits that change the game. Or so it seemed to me while examining rough cuts of "The Art of Spey Casting." When I have the chance to view 13 lessons offered by world-class casters and teachers, each shot from four camera positions; when I can isolate an action and repeat the scene until it's fixed in my mind-and also zoom in to see the path of a rod tip or how one hand works with the other; when I'm able to leap between lessons to compare instructors' styles…we're cooking with gas. "The Jim Green International Spey-a-rama" was the name of the casting teach-in and competition where this DVD was filmed. Held at the San Francisco Casting Ponds and hosted by the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, the event gathered together Speymasters from Scotland and England, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States. Lani Waller interviews many of these guests, which adds personality to the introductions that also segue into on-stream sequences. From the outset, Waller and company emphasize the distinction between Spey-casting-a style with applications for even single-hand rods-and the use of two-hand rods. Learn the Spey style with gear you've got, is the message repeated here, and you can fish well from spots where there's no room for backcasts, more efficiently change the direction of casts, and keep your fly working more of the time. Of course, if you're looking for the greater distance and increased line control offered by a longer lever, you should buy a proper Spey rod. The lessons demonstrate both single- and double-hand techniques. Surprisingly, there's not much repetition-the excellent work of editor Steve Lovejoy, I suspect-so I constantly gleaned new insights about body position, speed of stroke, grip, etc. Beyond that, "The Art of Spey Casting" maintains an excitement expressed by new and old devotees, a clear sense that, yes, you can do this, and have lots of fun trying. Mayflies By Ted Fauceglia (Stackpole Books: 2005; 800-732-3669; www.stackpolebooks.com) 200 pp.; hardcover; $49.95 It took me 20 minutes to notice the text in Mayflies, and I've now spent that much time examining the opening photo sequence, "Emerging Blue Quill Dun," a six-page tour de force. Words simply don't do it justice. Those who don't know Ted Fauceglia's name may have still seen his work in magazines, while his admirers have waited 15 years for his first book-length collection of photos. He does supply text, by the way-and fly patterns for the insects he photographs-in each of 22 chapters dedicated primarily, alas, to Eastern insects; readers will find his prose succinct and seriously informative. There's Latin enough, but the emphasis is on lay names, and the detailed descriptions of hatches and habits are always presented with the angler and tier in mind. In fact, when Fauceglia insists he's "not an entomologist," I suspect he means to emphasize an assertion from his Preface: "…This book is the result of two undying passions: An incurable addiction to the wonderful sport of fly-fishing and a lifelong interest in photography." Cheers to that, and to Mayflies. Fly-Fishing For Bonefish By Chico Fernandez with biology by Aaron J. Adams, Ph.D. (Stackpole Books: 2005; 800-732-3669; www.stackpolebooks.com) 194 pp.; hardcover; $49.95 It's gratifying to write about a passion you've pursued for nearly half a century. Both pleasure and experience shine through in Chico Fernandez's Fly-Fishing for Bonefish, a handsomely illustrated and well-balanced book that will prepare beginners, inform and advise intermediate flats-folk, and likely give experienced bonefishers material to ponder. Also reason to smile as one Fernandez fan insists, "You can hear Chico in every sentence." Fernandez has taught hundreds of anglers how to fish, and has fished with a host of experts and guides who also teach. From fundamentals to finesse presentation: Novices will discover that line-not rod or reel-is the first thing to choose, constructed from materials that won't wilt in the heat, and selected for "the size and weight of the fly you need to cast and the distance and accuracy needed." Fernandez implores tyros to learn to cast before a trip, and to measure their efforts in advance, front toe to where the fly lands, "so that when a guide tells you to cast 60 feet at 11 o'clock, you'll know how far he means." Grasp basics like these, then proceed to learn why one expert strips a shrimp fly faster than a crab pattern, or how far Fernandez extends his leader on a calm day when fish are tailing on a sandy white flat. Plan to hunt a bonefish on your own, someday: "I want your heart to be pounding, your throat to be dry, and your palms to be sweaty. Then, even if you don't get him, you will be a bonefisherman."