Spey to Z

Spey to Z

Plus, observations from Schullery

  • By: Seth Norman
The Rise Streamside Observations on Trout, Flies&Fly Fishing By Paul Schullery (Stackpole Books: 2006; 800-732-3669; wwww.stackpolebooks.com) 194 pp.; hardcover; $26.95 The caption to photo 7 in "Part One: How Trout Take a Fly" of The Rise reads: "The fly, in this case a mayfly spinner, has barely begun to tip into the opening mouth of the trout. Suction has also begun, and it appears…the beginning of the suction trough is passing over the head of the trout.On the stream bottom, the distorted light of the suction trough is beginning to obscure the shadow of the trout's head." Now compare that to this quote from "Part Two: How We Take a Fly:" "Hills, a man of his time, epitomized the sport's snootiest tradition, the very essence of white angling supremacy. For him--and he makes no apologies for this view--the entire history of the sport was aimed by fate, and probably God as well, toward the development of the dry fly, all so privileged types precisely like Hill could celebrate their own perfection by casting on the world's most expensive and exclusive trout streams. As a world view, it was quite tidy and no doubt enormously comfortable." The contrast between these two quotes suggests the breadth of this book, if not a critical connection. Of course, it's all about Trout, Flies&Fly Fishing, especially the mechanics and meaning of rise forms; but that erudite barb about "white angling supremacy" is something I'd expect from the scholar who brought us American Fly Fishing: A History. In truth, I liked it so much I repeated it, with attribution, at a charity wine tasting where I'd trapped a handsome young couple against a canapés table as they were sipping a pedestrian syrah. ("Who knew fly-fishing was so…political?") Part One of Rise is another kettle, however. Or so it seems at first: here's where Schullery focuses on his own streamside observations and research, illustrated by remarkable photographs of cutthroats rising below Yellowstone's Fishing Bridge, augmented by drawings composed by his wife, Marsha Karle, and referenced to a whole crowd of troutsmen who have written on the subject. Schullery's photo sequences and analyses of feeding fish will likely fascinate others, too, perhaps influence their tactics; and, for my part, send me on an overdue search for a copy of John Judy's Slack Line Tactics for Trout. Schullery arrives at his vantage with a 300 mm lens; also with a grasp of several centuries of fly-fishing history, including a knowledge of which fishing authors had studied rise forms in the recent and distant past--and a profound respect for their efforts. So even as he marvels and ruminates on the surprises he finds, he returns to theirs, wondering what they might have made of his images--and how things fit. That's the larger, underlying lesson Schullery conveys: "The longer I fish and the more I read the older writers and study the sport's history, the more I see fly fishing as a huge, multigenerational conversation. Our best fishing writers, even hundreds of years ago, conducted their instruction that way, pausing here and there to inquire into the sense of some earlier writer's theories or recognize for another an idea clearly realized… "It's how fly fishing works. Someone pronounces a Great Angling Truth, and if others notice and agree, it becomes ensconced in the code many of us tend to follow. Then someone else turns the whole thing on its head. For every Halford there will be a Skues. People get upset, other people get excited, others ignore the whole thing and go on their own way. Maybe we all learn something, maybe not, but on we go." Spey to Z: Understanding Traditional, Scandinavian, and Skagit Style Spey Casting with a Single and Double-Handed Rod Featuring Topher Browne, Greg Pearson, and Way Yin Directed by Jeff Pill (Three Amigos Productions: 2006; contact 800-874-4171 to order) $39.95 Somebody's said it before: Spey-casting is three dimensional and difficult to translate onto paper. It's also dynamically charged, if that's the proper phrase--dependent not only on a line loading a rod in one plane, then another; but on the stress produced by surface tension, drag and current. Motion is so integral to the process that the frozen action photos are often somewhat at a loss. That didn't happen here, by design--through camera angles and perspective, also deliberate progression. Each of the three instructors proceeds with an individual style; their segments were scripted, or at least "thought-through" before hand and edited after shooting to assure purpose and pace, and to avoid redundancy. The spirit, however, is clearly up-beat, along the lines of "We have techniques that do such cool things; you already know more about them than you think; and with a little practice…" This all comes across in Spey to Z, but there's more than that--and beginners should not let the subtitle intimidate them. Eventually co-presenters Greg Pearson, Topher Browne and Way Yin will contribute "nuggets" of instruction to experienced Spey casters in the process of delivering the subtitle's promise. Long before that, however, Spey to Z will offer a lucid lesson in which Yin--UK salmon distance-casting champion (along with other awards)--demonstrates just how Spey many of us already are with our favorite one-hand sticks, and how simply we might capitalize on possibilities even without investing in 15 feet of new graphite. That's the part that interested me, my first viewing or two. But as Browne and Pearson stepped up again to distinguish the three styles, I began to grasp the why, even a little of how, a Skagit school diverged from Scandinavian, unique conditions creating a need for shorter, heavier heads, et al. In other words, some small sense of Spey sank in, however distant Z competence remains. The most important thing is that viewers will find these lessons accessible, their teachers engaging; and beyond the basics provided, may also gain a sense of where Spey and two-handed casting might fit in their world, and the rest of it. Thunder Creek Flies By Keith Fulsher w/ David Klausmeyer (Stackpole Books: 2006; 800-732-3669; stackpolebooks.com) 110 pp., hardcover, $34.95 Clouser's Flies By Bob Clouser (Stackpole Books: 2006; 800-732-3669; stackpolebooks.com) 174 pp.; hardcover, $39.95 Fishers have favorite flies, a style of tying may have wide impact; and when it comes to designers, it's far, far too often I've heard or said, "Wonder how he came up with that. Wish he'd written a book." Certainly that's happened often enough in the last year, with folks reflecting about the late Andy Puyans. Time tells what patterns endure; but time clearly takes tips from publicists. Publishing and photography remain the best media to expose new skills and reveal clever adaptations and original thinking, if such exists. My own sense is that so many great notions die quiet deaths that we should celebrate those that last. It's an opinion shared by Stackpole Books. So while I'm out of space here, at least I can report the following: David Klausmeyer has helped Keith Fulsher revise, update and illustrate this new edition of Thunder Creek Flies, first published in 1973; and that this new lavishly photographed version has twice as many patterns, many of which use new materials and techniques. Clouser's Flies also offers big photographs and tying instructions, not only for the author's signature pattern, but for his crayfish, drakes, hellgrammites, adult mayflies, poppers and sliders, etc. Both books contain the histories of the patterns and the thoughts pushing evolution along--contributions, I would expect, for that "conversation" Schullery describes.