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Fly Fishing and Fly Tying: Six Books Column

This article was originally published in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine  

Each month, well known fly fisherman select the half dozen books that inspired or moulded their approach

This month: Robert MacDougall-Davis' selection

I was just 10 years old when, to celebrate the dramatic capture of my first salmon, friend and ghillie Alistair McLeod handed me The Boys Book of Angling by Major General R.N. Stewart.  I spent many days pouring over the pages of this wonderful little book that describes, with zeal, the fishing adventures of John and his brother Ronald on Scottish lochs and mighty Icelandic rivers.  Quite apart from containing many useful fishing tips, this little gem of literature encapsulates the overwhelming excitement, anticipation and thrill of going fishing.  It was while turning these pages I discovered that a good fishing book was an excellent second best to actually being on the water.  A sense of hope and optimism radiates from this story and optimism is something I take with me every time I cast a fly. Just like John and Ronald, I can never resist ‘one last cast’ and I have caught many a fine fish doing so.

Although, in my younger years I always had a special affinity for fly fishing I was an avid course fisher too and not surprisingly some of the course fishing titles I read have firmly influenced my approach to fly fishing.  One book that stands out for me is The Secret Carp by Chris Yates. Within these pages, Yates wields his wonderfully descriptive powers to reveal a world of mysterious fish and awe inspiring serenity: “As I am facing west it seems, at the moment, as if the tree line opposite is about to ignite. The fog-rinsed colours are almost pulsing with the light and yet the sun has still not quite risen.” ‘The Secret Carp’, touches the spirit of why we go fishing and it fuelled my appreciation of the natural world that surrounds us all when we are at the waters edge.

As time went by and my casting improved I gravitated more and more towards fly fishing.  Course fishing, like a drifting stick float, sunk slowly out of sight.  At some point during this divergence in my angling taste, I came across Sea Trout Fishing by Hugh Falkus.  Falkus’s remarkable dissemination of a lifetime’s worth of knowledge illuminated to me how much there was to learn, not just about sea trout fishing, but about fly fishing in general. Reading this book inspired me to find out more about the fish I pursued on my home waters and it encouraged me to delve deeper into the world of fly fishing than I ever had before.

Another book I am compelled to mention is Isaak Walton’sThe Compleat Angler.  In this all time angling classic, that has been reprinted more times than any other book in the English Language bar the bible and Shakespeare’s historic works, Walton manages to capture the very essence of angling with heart-warming and humorous prose and apt descriptions that seem to so often hit the nail on the head.  Far beyond techniques this book has influenced my spiritual approach to fly fishing. One delightful quote that springs to mind is Walton’s assertion that angling “…is an art worthy the knowledge and patience of a wise man.”

The book that has most directly influenced my technical approach to fly fishing isTrout Hunting by Bob Wyatt. Wyatt’s thoughtful, intelligent and entertaining exploration of trout fishing really got my mind wondering down all sorts of piscatorial avenues, from the principals of successful fly design and thoughts on ‘selective’ trout to the extreme importance of the conservation of our fisheries.

Finally, one of my favourite pieces of angling literature and one that has influenced my entire outlook on fly fishing is 'Viscount Grey of Fallodon’s ‘Fly Fishing’. This book overflows with beautiful descriptions and anecdotes. The following passage always reminds me how, for the lucky angler, fishing can go from being just a hobby to a way of life: “The time must come for all of us, who live long, when memory is more than prospect. An Angler who has reached this stage and reviews the pleasure of life will be grateful and glad that he has been an angler, for he will look back upon days radiant with happiness, peaks and peaks of enjoyment that are not less bright because they are lit in memory by the light of a setting sun.”

Take a guided fishing trip with the author by clicking here

Robert guiding in New Zealand (far left) and on the The River Test (centre and far right)



© Robert MacDougall-Davis : All Rights Reserved : 23/10/2011