The best fly tying books go beyond lists of materials and step-by-step instruction. Many include tying tips, etymology insights, and a strategy for fishing the flies you tie. Our list of best tying books consists of these sentiments and much more. Above all, these books instill confidence in the craft to make you a better fly tier.
You don’t need to be an excellent fly fisher to start fly tying. You don’t even need to fly fish. While there is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment from catching a fish on a fly you made, fly tying is a craft all to itself. So if you’re looking to get started, these guides are great introductions to fly tying.
I tell anyone looking to learn more about the world of fly fishing to start with Orvis. The company has the history and resources to be a clearing house for all the information you need to get started, including fly tying. Compiled by Tom Rosenbauer, this fully updated guide is jam-packed with the recipes and instruction you need to build a baseline knowledge in fly tying. With more than 1,000 photographs, you’re sure to develop the know-how you need to start tying.
Any feather bender needs a book like Eric Leiser’s, The Complete Book of Fly Tying. Whether you’re just starting or have been tying for a while, having a book that spans many different types of flies for many fish species is essential. This of The Complete Book of Fly Tying is a big cookbook. Sure, you’ll have a few cookbooks that specifically include French Cuisine or Italian recipes. Still, you’ll always need one that covers it all.
Fly Tying Reference Books
Fly tying can be a life-long endeavor, but unless you do it constantly, it isn’t necessarily like riding a bike. That’s why it’s always helpful to have a few reference books for refreshers on the techniques. These fly tying reference books are never far from my tying bench and should probably be near yours.
Do you feel lost? Turn to the good book: The Fly Tying Bible. Full of fly tying wisdom, recipes, and instructions by some of the most recognized names in fly tying, The Fly Tying Bible is an excellent reference for beginner and seasoned fly tyers. Specifically focused on trout and salmon patterns is a book you can turn to when you need to reclaim your faith in your tying skills. Why it’s not standard in every fishing lodge bedside drawer, we will never know.
Another indispensable reference book, The Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference, combines hundreds of fly pattern recipes with thousands of step-by-step images. This book targets trout flies exclusively, so trout bums will have plenty to keep them busy. Additionally, the techniques that are repeated in the book will be valuable for all fly tyers. Of course, you can’t remember every pattern, so it’s nice to have a tool like The Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference to look back to time and again.
One of the biggest struggles I have fly tying isn’t the process itself but sourcing the materials to make my favorite patterns the right way. It is so frustrating to stop by a fly shop only to discover they don’t have moose tail fibers for my hippie stompers or the minty-green chenille I use for my super-secret bugger pattern. But no more! The International Guide to Fly Tying Materials not only catalogs and details so many fly tying materials, but the book also suggests where to find the materials. This is a valuable book for sourcing suitable materials and educates you on why the material is used. While I might not always be able to find moose hair, at least I now know what I can substitute for without asking the fly shop manager every time.
From the history of fly tying to entomology, Hellekson combines two volumes of priceless work into The Encyclopedia of the Fly Tiers Art. I find that if you want to understand where you’re going, it’s important to review where you’ve been, and the history insights of this book can’t be discounted. This isn’t just a fly tying reference book; it’s a reference book on the entire art of fly fishing.
Who doesn’t love going to fly fishing shows or tying presentations to see the best fly tyers share their secrets? Me too! But I’ve got kiddos and can’t get out as much. The Fly Dresser’s Guide is perhaps the next best thing. Complete with patterns from tyers from all over North America, the Fly Dresser’s Guide includes techniques and strategies to take your fly tying skills to the next level – without driving anywhere.
Anyone can tie a fly. That’s the good news! But tying consistently and in volume to fill your boxes is another. Legendary fly tier A.K. Best shares his techniques for turning a craft into a production. Tips like prepping materials in batches are invaluable when trying to tie a bunch of flies. No angler should be without this book Lefty Kreh hailed it the best tying book available today!
Undoubtedly the most pursued species of fish on the fly is the trout. That’s why it’s no coincidence that many great fly tying manuals focus on trout flies. The best ones will teach you the classics and techniques you need to improvise. As fly fishermen, I enjoy tying up trout flies because flies can be expensive. Tying my own allows me to spend my money elsewhere. Plus, there’s nothing more rewarding than catching trout on flies you made.
Caddis are one of my favorite hatches to fish. Their clumsy demeanor covers for a poor drift and can be exhilarating skating across riffle. Trout loves them too, which is why Caddisflies by Gary LaFontaine is an excellent book for tier and angler alike. Learn about this aquatic insect, its habits, lifecycle, and how to use it to your advantage. What would you rather fish with, tiny midges or a bushy EHC? That’s what I thought!
Dave Hughes’ Trout Flies is a must for any fly fiend and is known to the trout world as an accomplished fly fisher and epic fly tying author. Trout Flies is filled with recipes and tips to make your tying better, but more importantly, to make your trout angling superb. From classic patterns to experimental gems, Trout Flies deserves a place on your shelf, and the patterns will be packed in your fly box.
A more focused book by Hughes follows up trout flies with Essential Trout Flies. He focuses on 31 indispensable patterns and offers variations on each to cater to the tier, but also picky trout. I like the book because it shows focus but also celebrates the fact that there are many ways to tie a trout fly. Using this book will give you skills, but perhaps the most important gift is the confidence in adjusting the fly based on materials and conditions.
For those who huck meat, we salute you! Coaxing a hook jawed brown from its lair to clobber an articulated streamer is nothing short of a thrill. And given the right conditions, streamer fishing can be exceptional. But streamers are so expensive. That’s why it would behoove you to learn to tie your own. And if you’re going to do that, there isn’t anyone more appropriate to learn from than Kelly Galloup.
Don’t let the title fool you. The patterns in Modern Trout Flies were cutting edge when the book was first published in 1979. Today, however, they are looked at as classics. This classic book covers creating the fly fishing world’s most effective trout flies. You won’t learn how to tie a Game Changer or Swim Bait in Modern Trout flies, but you’ll be sure to improve your skills and be able to build upon your craft.
Saltwater & Salmon Flies
While trout might get much of the attention of fly fishers, those who have experienced fly fishing saltwater know that these trout bums are missing out. Everything you love about trout angling can be experienced fishing salt water. This includes tying patterns that will get these challenging, powerful, and sometimes massive fish to turn their heads. On the salt flats, the stakes are always high. Tying correctly and durability is that much more important.
Fishing for saltwater species can be intimidating. Growing up in the Rocky Mountains, few things can prepare you for your first experience. Still, once you get a taste of everything saltwater fly fishing has to offer, all you’ll think about is going back with a handful of your own flies. Not to mention, there’s no better guide to teach you the best patterns than Lefty Kreh. This book is fully updated and augmented to prepare you for twisting up the best flies for bonefish, permit, tarpon, redfish, or anything else that lurks out there.
Salmon fishing has a mystique, and the flies add to that mystique. Ornate, opulent, traditional, salmon flies have a rich history. Still, they also have to be effective at the end of the day. Swinging beautifully crafted flies means nothing if the intended connection gets missed. Salmon are legendarily picky, and fishing for them can be quite the challenge. Jorgensen knows this. His book Salmon Flies is full of proven patterns and worthy instruction to take the leap.
You can never have too many fly tying books. No book is ever the same or teaches you the same technique. Not every pattern is going to work, but the skills, techniques, strategies, and knowledge that the best fly tying books share is invaluable. These books will prove invaluable if you do your tying year-round to match the hatch or set aside quiet winters to refill your boxes. Happy tying!