fly-fishing book review on Spey Flies, Dee Flies Fly fishing book reviews 

Spey Flies & Dee Flies: Their History & Construction
John Shewey
Hardbound:   160 pp.
Frank Amato Publications   $45.00
ISBN  1-57188-233-2
Spey flies and Dee flies by John Shewey

I have to be honest with you. I've been reading Shewey's articles and books for years, but I didn't realize how involved he has been in the classier flies from the old world. I have to admit, too, that I don't tie these kinds of flies, nor full-dress salmon flies, and that most everything I know about them comes from what I've read in Shewey's book. So this review of his book is for the rest of us, those who are new to the classier and advanced style of tying, and who want to learn a little history while applying some traditional patterns to their next table top masterpiece.

Shewey does a splendid job of presenting the entire subject of Spey and Dee flies, from their Scottish origins, to their complex construction, to presenting them to Northwest steelhead. The book is admirably illustrated with Shewey's own photography, depicting classic patterns as well as modern dressings used on our fast west coast rivers.

After a thorough introduction and history of the flies, Shewey jumps into their construction from tailing and ribbing to the intricacies of wing mounting. The effects and advantages of the many tying materials, from hooks to tinsels, and from original heron feathers to modern alternatives like pheasant rump, are explained and well illustrated. Photo illustrations of complicated tying procedures are very helpful along the way for someone new to these flies. You almost get the sense that secret little tying steps are being divulged for the first time.

Especially interesting is the history of Northwest fly tiers who helped define the sport of steelheading with spey and dee flies, flyfishers like Syd Glasso, Walt Johnson, and Dave McNeese. Photos of their tying creations, as well as a few choice words from these legends, help put the book in an historical context of the old and new world of salmon and steelhead flyfishers.

Even though Shewey is a self-proclaimed purist who aspires to master the art of tying according to the historical intent of these flies, he is not blind to the fish's perspective on these matters. He reminds us that the fish, under many circumstances, will attack any collection of fur and feather as long as it is presented appropriately and at the right time.

More important, he reminds us that we don't need to be a slave to these patterns. Rather, we can learn from them as we apply some of these tying methods to our own creations. In my own experience, I found myself doing just that. My current steelhead patterns, being fairly sloppy affairs, evolved a bit with more efficient tying, better materials, and more efficient wrapping of materials to bring out their qualities better--and to make them more pleasing to my eye. They may not be classic Spey patterns, but they give me a little more confidence as I swim them across the current. And as we all know, confidence is better than fifty percent of the success you achieve in this sport.

--Toney J. Sisk


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