Early Northwest Fly-Fishing Fly fishing book reviews 

Early Northwest Fly-Fishing

by Blaine Hallock
Softbound: 232 pp.
Amato Books Publications    $19.95
ISBN   1-57188-386-X
Early Northwest Fly-Fishing

The things that are hidden in our attics and garages are sometimes the stuff history is made of. So it is with the latest addition from Amato Publications--a hidden gem gathering dust in a box and uncovered 60 years after the its author passed away. These early writings by Blaine Hallock cover a lifetime of fly fishing from the late nineteenth century to mid twentieth century.

More than other sports people, flyfishers listen to the history of their favorite pastime. For one thing, few modern sports have as long a history as flyfishing. And the practitioners of our sport are often inclined to reading and studying the nuances and historical precedents of fishing with a fly. So when this book showed up in the mail, I was naturally curious and delighted to explore an early perspective of flyfishing during a time when fly folks such as G. E. M. Skues, George LaBranche and Theodore Gordon were kicking rocks in streams during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Hallock starts his fishing biography where many of us started, with something less than a fly on the end of a thick leader. Bamboo was the weapon of the day, and with it he fished from the Far East to the South Pacific, always coming back to his home waters in Oregon. A harrowing canoe trip down the early Willamette full of stampeding logs, another trip in the South Pacific catching fish the size of small boats,  lawyering with supreme court justices--add considerable fare for any flyfisher wishing to increase the breadth of his or her sport.

And like us, he laments the degradation of the sport. The suspicion that the sport has degraded is shared by most past generations, perhaps as far back as those inhabiting the Garden of Eden, if you care to go back that far. And even then, there were issues with the animals.

I suspect that Hallock's favorite fly, his "Hallock's Killer," would have handled any trout in paradise.  This fly has seen action all over Hallock's world, and he devotes a chapter to its construction. Read the book to learn its construction, but I do offer a few observations. Doing a thorough internet search, I find no mention of this fly or its construction, so I'm offering up to the world my humble attempt at tying it.

It's deer hair wing with brown neck hackle resembles an elk-hair caddis pattern with the two materials reversed; that is, with the brown hackle wound over the deer hair. I know of only a few modern pattern that do this. This combination adds a brown mottling to the wings, which I find very interesting. I purposely left the deer hair uneven (or unstacked), as Hallock did. Hallock tied this fly with his fingers, and the idea of evening up the tips with a stacker was not invented yet. The original pattern calls for a "corn yellow" silk floss body with gold wire rib, but since I had plenty of silk thread in a light yellow, I chose to use this. The tail is red hackle.

The fly resembles, to my eye, a caddis pattern lying low in the film. Hallock indicates that the amount of wing material can be varied depending on whether the fly is meant to float or sink, as a dry fly or wet fly (or emerger or rising egg-laying caddis, just to give it a modern tone). So there you have it. Offering this charming fly up in a Hydropsyche caddis hatch, I did snag a few fish, and I'm going to enjoy experimenting during stonefly hatches and grasshopper time.

Add this book to your armchair adventures. Historical adventures have a way of coming back around and surprising us in unexpected ways.

--Toney J. Sisk


Thoughts on this book review? Send to