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Book Review: Dry Fly Strategies by Paul Weamer

Stackpole Books, 2021, 192 pages, $30 hardcover, ISBN 978-0811739535.

Book Review: Dry Fly Strategies by Paul Weamer

Stackpole Books, 2021, 192 pages, $30 hardcover, ISBN 978-0811739535.

Experienced fly fishers know that about 90 percent of the food items trout eat are taken below the water’s surface. For this reason, countless fly patterns are designed to imitate subsurface foods such as aquatic insect nymphs and larvae, baitfish, crayfish, leeches, and isopods. It’s no surprise that drifting nymphs and casting streamers and bucktails are popular and effective methods of drawing strikes and bringing trout to hand. Despite this “90-percent rule,” most anglers relish any opportunity to cast dry flies, which float on the surface or hang suspended in the surface film. Fishing drys—especially on those magical occasions when all the trout in the river are looking up and gorging on recently hatched aquatic insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies, or windblown terrestrials such as grasshoppers, ants, moths, cicadas, and mountain pine beetles— can be a tremendously exciting way to fish. The visual appeal of watching a nice brown, rainbow, brookie, or cutthroat rise up and eat a well-presented dry is hard to beat.

As thrilling as it can be, dry-fly fishing is anything but easy. It demands skills and know-how born of long experience on the water. Enter Paul Weamer, longtime Fly Fisherman contributing editor, author, fly-fishing guide, and expert on aquatic entomology. His new book Dry Fly Strategies serves as both an excellent primer for those new to fishing drys, and a great leap forward for anglers who already have some experience in the dry-fly game and seek to improve their skills.

Dry Fly Strategies is an attractive, beautifully designed book printed on high-quality, glossy paper. It’s copiously illustrated with gorgeous full-color photographs and a handy table (on pages 64 and 65) to help you select the proper floating pattern for almost any situation you might encounter: aquatic insect type (mayfly, caddisfly, or stonefly) and size; water type; daylight or nighttime fishing; and the trout riseform types you’re seeing on the water (sipping, bulging, or splashing/gulping). Not to worry— for those who aren’t yet among the cognoscenti, Weamer’s book explains in detail what these different riseforms can tell you about which insects the trout are feeding on, and the most effective patterns and methods to tempt them to strike.

The book’s eight chapters are written in an authoritative but accessible style. They cover such vital topics as preparation (how changing seasons and variable weather and light conditions impact dry-fly fishing); flies for mayflies (the first and possibly the most important aquatic insects that dry flies were designed to imitate, beginning in the 19th century, first on chalkstreams in southern England and soon thereafter on the Beaverkill and Neversink rivers in New York’s Catskills); drys for other aquatic insects and terrestrials (including caddisflies, stoneflies, midges, grasshoppers, and more); and choosing the best fly for any given situation.

Chapter 5 covers pace and posture, a welcome element for an instructional angling book. The author considers the pace at which you fish to be one of the more important aspects of dryfly fishing. For example, how much time should you spend blind casting to a nonproductive piece of water before moving on? How long should you persist with a trout that’s rising but keeps refusing your offerings? Answers to such questions are particular to the individual angler and prevailing conditions, but Weamer provides a firm basis for choosing a pace that works for you. The topic of “posture” addresses the myriad problems of getting into the best positions to make effective casts.

In Chapter 6, the author discusses advanced casting, line-mending, and fishing techniques, including the best methods for defeating drag, the arch-nemesis of dry-fly anglers. You might have the best, most realistic imitation in the world tied to your tippet, but if conflicting stream currents pluck at your leader and cause the fly to drag unnaturally, trout are likely to turn up their noses at your offering. The best ways to defeat drag involve mending line—in the air while you’re casting or on the surface of the water.

Chapter 7 covers dry-fly tactics for large and/or difficult- to-catch trout. Chapter 8 covers tackle and equipment, including fly rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, and accessories. Dry Fly Strategies is an attractive book from a master of the dry-fly game. Written in an accessible, down-to-earth style, it’s the sort of book readers will refer to repeatedly as they figure out how to put more trout in the net when fishing dry flies. It will make a fine addition to any fly fisher’s library. 

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