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  • Ken Perrotte

'America's Favorite Flies' -- Creative, Beautiful, Keepsake Any Fly Fisherman Would Love to Own

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

fly fishing best flies

Fly fishing has never been one of my wheelhouse pursuits, but I always love trying to accurately “present” a fly to often unseen trout and revel in the moment when I’m actually successful in fooling one.

I don’t have to be a fly-fishing expert to appreciate good art, such as the book “America’s Favorite Flies.” This 656-page book is a heavyweight, literally, with nearly 7 pounds of full-color content ideally suited for reading rooms at rustic, yet opulent, fishing lodges. I can easily see it in an angler’s personal library -- one with dark wood and the residual aroma of cigar smoke and good bourbon.

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This book was printed in 2017, making me a late discoverer of what the authors (Richmond-area locals Rob Carter and John Bryan) rightfully refer to as an “encyclopedia” of more than 200 of the favorite fly selections of noted anglers, statesmen, actors and authors.

Whenever I admire a collection of flies or watch a person painstakingly tying one, I marvel at the intricate effort required to create this intended replica of nature. You often can’t appreciate the intricate, nuanced detail unless you examine them with a magnifying glass.

This book removes that need. In a masterful cross-referencing initiative, the authors present full-page, full-color images of the favored flies, linked to back-of-the-book, first-person narratives and images of the contributors, including such notables as President Jimmy Carter, fly matriarch Joan Wulff, the late Lefty Kreh, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Riverkeeper founder Robert Boyle, rocker Huey Lewis, author Tom McGuane and artist James Prosek. Some of the flies represent the contributor’s own creations.

I found myself a bit partial to offerings such as Robert Bickell’s Copper Beadhead Hare’s Ear, mainly because it was nearly identical to the fly I pitched while wading a half-mile stretch of New Zealand’s Makuri River. Other standouts included the Wiley Woodie, Tribute, a couple classic Adams, Mr. Rapidan, Bonefish Parrot Joe, The Meadow, The Fly Formerly Known as Prince; heck, they were all cool. There were nymphs and shrimps; muddler minnows and clousers; caddis, coachmen and mayflies – bugs all.

Interspersed among the flies and the guest essay storytelling are gallery-quality works of art spanning all media, from watercolor to acrylic to colored pencil. The amount of color in the book is incredible. I believe there may be a single, seemingly gratuitous black/white image of one of the contributors toward the back of the book.

Printing a 9x12 hardcover book like this is not an inexpensive proposition. The traditional hardcover edition (ISBN: 978-0-9987376-8-3) was issued with a publisher's price of $145 in Richmond in December 2017. It’s now available for $72.50. A faux leather-bound edition, suitable for the most elegant personal libraries is $125. Only 245 copies of this numbered edition exist.

More information and online ordering is at If you order, use coupon code OUTDOORSRAMBLER for a $10 discount. Free shipping is available in the continental United States. A portion of the proceeds go to the James River Association and the Native Fish Society.

I can’t imagine any avid fly fisherman not wanting to own this book. Hint to friends and significant others: it’d make a great special occasion gift. Beyond that, I think anyone with a joy of fishing, who appreciates the design and artistry that goes into many lures, flies or otherwise, would find it an enjoyable study. And if like me, an occasional fly fisherman, you just might find yourself looking in the basement for that old fly rod you inherited.

About the authors: John Bryan (Chief Editor) has written about fishing for Sports Illustrated, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman, and other publications. Among his books is Take Me Fishing (2007) for which he gathered 50 living writers who provided their writings pro bono and from which 100% of the proceeds were dedicated to healthier fisheries. Participants ranged from Howell Raines to John McPhee to Joan Wulff to President Jimmy Carter – several of whom are participating in America’s Favorite Flies.

Rob Carter (Editor and Chief Designer) is author of 14 internationally published books on the subjects of typography, book design and graphic design. Among them is Typographic Design: Form and Communication, which after more than 35 years remains one of the most influential textbooks on the subject of typography.

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