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Fly Tying Made Clear And Simple II

Book Review By Joe Cornwall


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"Nothing is as simple as we hope it will be." ─ Jim Horning

Skip Morris is one of the most talented fly tiers and fly fishing communicators working in the industry today.  In this, his twelfth book, Morris revisits the original Fly Tying Made Clear And Simple, first released in 1992, to take a fresh look at basic fly tying skills.  Clear and Simple II retains the easy, logical and crystal-clear instructive perspective of the first book, and improves on it with a level of pacing, layout and indexing design rarely before seen in a fly tying instruction book.  I've been personally tying flies for nearly 40 years, and I picked up some great hints and observations from each of the 18 patterns Morris presents.  Each pattern is a lesson that demonstrates a technique or set of skills, and each pattern builds on the skills of the last.

I completely empathize with Skip in his introduction.  Says Morris; "I had my own struggles way back when I started tying as a kid.  Developing my tying skills was tough enough without trying to make sense of those tying instruction books from the 1960's and before.  Truth is, many of those books were as confusing as I was confused."  As a self-taught tier, I've always had a fascination with tying manuals, but I've rarely found one that is as universally helpful as this.

"Every fly in this book teaches you specific techniques and tying strategies, and is presented plainly and logically, with short sections that offer solutions to the problems you may encounter and suggestions for avoiding such problems in the future.  With these sections event he most complex fly dressings can be manageable and fun."  This is truth in advertising and that's a rare find in the 21st Century!

The book, spiral bound to let it lay flat on a tying desk, is presented in four parts.  Part 1 starts with the Prince Nymph, which is subtitled ""a refresher on basic tying techniques", and proceeds through the Pettis' Pulsating Caddis (a glass bead-body nymph), the Bitch Creek nymph, the Copper John and Morris' own Anatomical Green Drake.  Not only does each pattern demonstrate a different lesson, each of the patterns are truly useful.  Morris is a resident of Washington State.  His local waters no doubt contributed to the trout-centric nature of the fly choices, but there isn't one that doesn't translate to the Midwestern or warm-water experience. 

Part 2 begins with the Clouser Minnow, and this might be the weakest lesson in the book.  I need to mention that the weakest in this book is still better than the best of most others, so take this criticism with a grain of salt.  Morris expertly shows the tying of the fly, but doesn't touch on how the placement of the eyes fore or aft of the hook's mid-point can fundamentally change the action of the fly.  Further, his comments on the size and color selection of this pattern are almost quaint.  It's plain to see that this isn't a fly that he fishes often.  "Clousers in such unnatural colors as chartreuse, bright-orange, and purple are - at least in my experience and from my exceedingly modest research - fully as popular as their imitative kin," Morris writes.  He goes on to say "I tend to tie it small for smallmouth and a bit larger for largemouth bass, with a dark wing, gold or bronze Krystal Flash, and Flashabou under-wing, and white belly in sizes 10 to 6, though many prefer big Clousers for both species."  In most of the smallmouth fisheries where I've wet a line, a size 4 in chartreuse (if it ain't chartreuse it ain't no use, as the saying goes) would be considered a standard size and color fly.  Certainly I don't think of it as a big fly.  For a warm water angler big doesn't happen until size 2/0.

Part 2 quickly regains world-class standing with the brilliant-but-complicated Morris Minnow, the Marabou Muddler and the Cowdung wet fly.  Part 3 focuses on surface-film patterns, offering the Klinkhamer Special, Quigley Cripple and WD40. Finally Part 4 offers up half a dozen dry flies including the Yellow Stimulator, the CDC Callibaetis Spinner and the Chernobyl Ant.

The photography in this production is a perfect blend of explicit detail and carefully considered background.  Each page features several step-by-step illustrations that make understanding the material seem easy.  Carol Morris' artwork supports and visually interprets the contextual detail of Skip Morris' written description.  And, as the press release for the book points out, gray-colored bars next to the detailed technique instructions are numbered to match correlating tying steps & photos."  This is an easy book to use at the bench.

Fly Tying Made Clear And Simple II succeeds because it really does execute its mission as well as, or better than, any competing effort.  In this manual, one of the foremost experts at fly tying shares his technical expertise in a clear, useful and scalable manner.  But the book also succeeds because Morris makes you want to tie each fly.  The patterns seem almost obvious in their selection, and yet the collection is internally connected in unexpected ways.  The history of success on the water carried by each fly delivers a sense of confident anticipation.  If you fish for trout especially, but most any freshwater fish in general, and you tie flies, then you'll appreciate and learn from this volume.

Whether you are new to the hobby of fly tying or an old hand, Fly Tying Made Clear And Simple II will help make you a better practitioner.  Practice the lesson's Morris teaches and you'll find that fly tying may be exactly as simple as we hope it will be!  Fly Tying Made Clear And Simple II, ISBN 978-1-57188-453-4 is available for $24.95 from Amato Books.

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