Fly Fishing with A. K.
Hardbound: 140 pp.
Stackpole Books $24.95
After studying such fine books as Production Fly Tying, Dyeing and Beaching, Advanced Fly Tying, I'm delighted to read a lighter approach that takes the reader closer to who A. K. Best is as a flyfisher. Best's latest work is no step-by-step primer on fly fishing. There are more than enough of those today. Instead, what we have is an expose on a lifetime of bending over a fly tying bench and fly waters.
The pleasure is in the details. Other people have written about the same casts Best makes, but Best always throws in the critical details about the casts, or the flies, presentations, and water that lesser flyfishers miss. For example, how you release a fish is important, as everyone tells us ad nauseum. Best, however, takes the thought one step further by telling us to watch where the fish goes after it is released, which is often a prime holding spot. It is that additional step that makes a significant difference in one's advancement as a flyfisher.
An expose wouldn't be complete without other personal details, like what goes in the vest or what goes on top of the head. We don't normally hear what's in a person's vest, but you can be sure that what's in Best's vest is going to be more interesting than what's in yours or mine, and with fewer silly gadgets that fill the modern vest or bag. Even the hat Best wears is subject to a interesting discussion of the value of simple cotton to keep your head protected. He almost makes me feel guilty for the Gortex in my hat.
But more important than vests or hats are the fish. Best never lets us lose sight of this fact. There is no question that Best is an expert at casting the fly for optimal presentation. While other people talk about roll casts, pile casts, tuck casts, Best, in typical fashion, takes us one step further by giving greater detail about the nuisances of the cast. I never would have thought of applying an upstream mend to a roll cast or observe wind piling up against a river's far bank until Best opened up this possibility. I have read thousands of books on fly fishing, and have never come across any information that discusses the effects of wind in the same way.
But this is what we expect of an imaginative fly fisher who has seen and tried it all. Being around fly waters and the fly table for decades puts Best in the rare position of intelligently sorting through the fuss and nonsense of today's often obsessed approach toward the sport. While an admitted dry fly and bamboo purist, he nevertheless has a home-spun approach to help us see through the water and toward a more fulfilling experience on the stream.
--Toney J. Sisk
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