A little break from Portland Hikes and whatnot, for a review of a book that would make a fine gift for somebody who might want to get into fly-fishing …
Everybody who fishes can tell you who got them started. Often it was their dad, or an uncle, and in most cases more guides and teachers have come along during the fishing career, to broaden the scope of knowledge and awareness, or just to lead a fine adventure.
For those who fly-fish, there seems to be another, deeply sentimental layer to this process. It isn’t that bait fishers aren’t sentimental, but something about the fly cast, the fly itself, and having a fish on those feather-light rods touches a sweet something in our souls. While fishing is, indeed, about catching fish, the experience of fly-fishing – as opposed to, say, putting a worm under a bobber, or throwing something shiny and metal into the water – seems to also calm and center us.
Yes, I said, “us,” for I consider myself a fly-fisherman. I am a total novice, rarely catch any fish, am a mediocre caster at best, and certainly let all kinds of fish escape because I don’t even realize they are hitting my fly. But I do love it, and I want to keep learning.
- The guy who got me started is Craig Schuhmann, a longtime friend who is now a professional fly-fishing guide in Klamath Falls, Oregon. In fact, he moved there to fish; I can sympathize, as I moved to Portland to hike (and write about it). As a beginner, there is no substitute for having a real pro tell me, “Put this fly onto this line and this rod, and cast it over there, like this.” My chances of catching a fish thus go from zero to … oh, well, who’s counting?
Well, Craig is also a writer, and a while back he was approached by a Portland-based Frank Amato Publishing to update their legendary book called The Curtis Creek Manifesto, which came out in 1976 and has sold more than 300,000 copies. What made the Manifesto unique is that it was only 45 pages, half of them drawings, and it both was remarkably simple and thoroughly funny. A favorite example is a page called “Major Fish Scarers” and featuring drawings of a boot on gravel, people yelling, and a stereo playing.
Craig spent a couple of years working on this, and the result, with a simple title matching its simple mission of helping you catch fish in rivers with flies, is Get Started Fly-Fishing! It has grown to 116 pages but remains remarkably simple in its approach. If you’re looking to, well, get started fly-fishing, this is your book. Likewise, if you know somebody who wants to get started fly-fishing, this is their book (and Christmas gift).
It starts with an introduction to the fish themselves, then proceeds through tackle, gear, knots, casting, flies, how to read the water, presentation of the fly, and playing the fish. Nice and simple: Meet the fish, get ready, find the fish, show them the fly, catch them. Simple, not easy, much fun.
It’s a long way from being overly technical – it has to be, because I helped edit it – and it still has plenty of helpful drawings, now augmented with the standard “fishing porn” shots of happy people holding big fish in wonderful scenery.
But what I think makes the book cool is that it could be the new Manifesto for a new generation of fly-fishers. Craig could, in other words, also be the person who helped get you started catching fish in rivers with flies. Or, if you were to buy Get Started Fly-Fishing! for a young someone in your life, you just might be the person who started them on a lifetime of calming adventure.