mayfly graphic for book review on Mayflies Fly fishing book reviews 

Mayflies "Top to Bottom"
Shane Stalcup
Softbound:   157 pp.
Frank Amato Publications   $29.95
ISBN  1-57188-242-1
Mayflies Top to Bottom by Joseph Heywood

Books aren't often written by the same person doing the photography, but when they are, you can usually expect a good experience.  You get a sense of  commitment to the material and a desire by the author/photographer to find the best way to present the information. This is what we get from Stalcup's excellent book on mayflies. I'm reminded of Dave Hughes many books where he, too, tripped the shutter. And we all know how wonderful his photography can be and how well he approaches his subject.

Stalcup's book shows not only exceptional photographic skill, but a fairly unique approach to his subject. There are many books with lots of pictures on fly tying that don't have a lot to say beyond showing the latest and greatest materials that you can wrap around a hook. Stalcup goes much further than this.

Stalcup first gives an overview of some traditional but mainly new tying materials, some of which I have not heard of. Building a nymph body with shredded aluminum or UV reflective ice dubbing is new to this fly tier. I haven't worked with biots in the past, but they might be something I'll have to try to replace the terribly difficult task of stripping down herl to achieve a segmented effect on smaller flies. You can't just walk into a fly shop and ask What's new with fly tying materials today? I mean, you'll get an earfull of answers, but you can't expect a comprehensive treatment that you could explore in an armchair.

The tying materials presented in the first part of the book are used in tying examples throughout the book. Especially helpful are the detailed tying steps for less familiar materials like goose and turkey biots. Most books won't bother to explain the different ways to tie this material in for different segmented effects, or that if you tie a biot in one way, you can hand dye the biot for an enhanced segmented effect. It is small details like this that make a difference in fly tying strategies, details that will incline me to go out and buy some biots (or better, search my many skins for biots).

Now, I'm typically a muskrat-and-hackle kind of fly tier, so I'm not inclined toward non-traditional materials, such as synthetic sheeting and poly dubbing. But Stalcup presents his tying procedures in a very informative and convincing way that makes fly fishers like me take a second look. He also, quite wisely, presents alternative ways of tying flies for the naturalist at heart.

I especially appreciate depicting the natural insect next to the fly. You can see clearly how well the new and old materials represent the natural. The quality of the photography also helps illustrate the ability of the tying materials and strategies bring out the translucency of the natural and the artificial.

Most authors would stop here, but Stalcup goes further still. Stalcup includes specific presentation thoughts on each new material, including retrieve rates, depth control and other strategies that bring out the material's specific fish-attracting qualities. I know what I'm going to do next. I'm going to try out goose biots on my next trico pattern, and maybe even some thin flexible translucent tubing for larger nymphs with wings of clear sheeting, with a muskrat thorax just for old-time's sake. You never know what might bite.

--Toney J. Sisk


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