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21 Best Fly Fishing Books Of All Time Broken Down By Category


Article Categories: Fishing | Fishing Tips
Article Tags: Fly Fishing

Fly fishing isn’t just fun to do– it’s fun to read about! There are many books about fly fishing out there. Some are narratives, while others are essential how-to guides that can help you get started, learn new skills, or troubleshoot mistakes. Here’s our list of the fly fishing books you need in your home library. We also have included links for where you can buy, rent, or download these books.


How-To Fly Fishing Books

These books provide guidance, instruction, and ideas for the modern fly fisher. Some of them are for general fly fishing; others are more technical or specialized. However you want to improve your fly fishing skills, there’s a guidebook out there for you.


The Essence of Flycasting by Mel Krieger

The Essence of FlycastingThis classic fly fishing instructional text is one of the best books for learning the ins and outs of the sport. The Essence of Flycasting shows you in photographs and diagrams exactly how to perform the intricate movements needed to create the perfect cast.


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The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, Revised by Tom Rosenbauer

The Orvis Fly-Fishing GuideAs a company, Orvis knows fly fishing better than almost anybody else. Their fly fishing guide is no exception to this rule. The author has been tying flies commercially since he was fourteen, and his four decades of fly fishing experience are distilled in these pages. A must have for any fly fishing enthusiast.


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The Orvis Guide To Beginning Fly Fishing: 101 Tips for the Absolute Beginner by Tom Rosenbauer

The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing- 101 Tips for the Absolute BeginnerIf the instructions in The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide are overwhelming, this book will get you started. The advanced fly fisher probably knows everything in these pages, but everybody has to start somewhere. This book is ideal for beginners at any stage– whether you’ve learned a couple of casts or haven’t even bought your first rod and reel yet, this guide is practical and easy to understand.


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The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing by Kirk Deeter and Charlie Meyers

The Little Red Book of Fly FishingThe Little Red Book of Fly Fishing is essentially a pocket guide to the sport of fly fishing, written by two veteran anglers who came together to demystify their passion. Featuring 240 tips that don’t require any advanced physics lessons or innate understanding of how fish think, this is a straightforward guide to the basics of fly fishing.


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Tactical Fly Fishing: Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers by Devin Olsen

Tactical Fly Fishing- Lessons Learned from Competition for All AnglersMost of us will never be professional fly fishers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a lot from the pros. Devin Olsen is a repeat medalist in global fly fishing competitions, and his techniques for winning are explained in this volume. He does a good job of taking what he knows and applying it to everyday situations, allowing anyone to fish more successfully on rivers, small streams, and still waters.


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Fly-Fishing Advice from an Old-Timer: A Practical Guide to the Sport and its Language by Ed Quigley

Fly-Fishing Advice from an Old-Timer- A Practical Guide to the Sport and Its LanguageTake some advice from a veteran of the sport and sit down with Ed Quigley’s book on fly fishing. Quigley’s straightforward explanation of the basics and detailed discussions of advanced topics are easy to understand, and his ingenious tips and compelling anecdotes from his own years of experience fly fishing streams from Labrador to Costa Rica and beyond make the book very enjoyable.


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A Guide’s Guide to Fly-Fishing Mistakes: Common Problems and How To Correct Them by Sara Low

A Guide's Guide to Fly-Fishing Mistakes- Common Problems and How to Correct ThemAs a licensed fly fishing guide, Sara Low has seen it all. If it can go wrong on the water, she’s seen it– and has some good ideas about how to correct these problems. This book offers solutions for fly fishers on many topics, including approaching fish, fly selection, proper fly presentation, consistent and accurate casting, and techniques for hooking and landing of fish, as well as pointers for fishing in spring, summer, fall, and winter. This isn’t a book you’d typically sit down with and read cover to cover (although you can do that if you want); instead, it’s the book you pull out when you have a problem you want to fix. It’s an invaluable guide for any angler who wants to up their game.


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Basic Fly Tying: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started by John Rounds

Basic Fly Tying- All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started (How To Basics)Fly tying is one of many challenging aspects of fly fishing, and this book is a great introduction to it. It features photographs and illustrated diagrams to help you get the knack of the basic fly components. It illustrates every phase of the tying process, from clamping the hook in the vise to executing the final whip finish, and everything in between. You’ll learn seven of the most effective and foundational patterns for nymphs, streamers, and dry flies.


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Nonfiction Fly Fishing Books

The history and culture of fly fishing is a massive part of the sport’s development. Participating in it is part of the fun, too! The following books all have something to say about what it means to be a fly fisher. Whether they’re personal stories, histories, biographies, or anything else, everything in the following books will help you understand the sport we all love.


The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies by Ian Whitelaw

The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty FliesThe History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies recounts the history of a sport that dates back 2,000 years, focusing on milestone flies from the first feathered hook to contemporary patterns using cutting-edge materials. While it might seem impossible to choose only 50 flies among the countless fly patterns dating back two millennia, these flies represent the development of the very sport itself. They chart the spread from its modern origins on the chalk streams of England and Scottish rivers to every country in the world. Filled with profiles of the key people involved, tying tips, photographs and illustrations of the flies, The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies is a fascinating look at the history of this fascinating sport.


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The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing by Mark Kurlansky

The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly FishingLike all of Mark Kurlansky’s books, The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing is a deep dive into a subject the author finds fascinating. Kurlanksy’s observations aren’t just about the fly fishers, but about the fish themselves. He is deeply in love with the complexities of the sport and the battle between fish and fishermen, and his book is a combination of love letter and sport history. A very fun read!


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Trout: An Illustrated History by James Prosek

Trout: An Illustrated HistoryIf you want to catch a trout, you need to know as much as you can about it– how it looks, where it eats, what part of the water it likes, and much more about its behavior and evolutionary history. Prosek’s lavishly illustrated book features original watercolors alongside a fascinating natural history of the fish themselves.


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Dumb Luck and the Kindess of Strangers by John Gierach

Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers (John Gierach's Fly-fishing Library)We recommend any and all of John Gierach’s fly fishing books, but we picked this one because it’s very approachable and is a great example of his prose. Fifteen books and countless articles and columns have made John Gierach probably the most prominent fishing writer in America, and his books encompass his love of the sport and the people who practice it.


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The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing by Thomas McGuane

The Longest SilenceThis collection of 40 essays shows what dedication to a sport reveals about life. Both funny and reverent at the same time, each piece shares McGuane’s deep experience of wildlife and the outdoors and love for the sport he pursues. The book takes you around the world, from Florida tarpon to Icelandic salmon, and provides you with an intimate look at many varied lives who all share one thing: a love of fly fishing.


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  • Length: 384 pages
  • Year Published: 2019 (most recent edition)
  • Buy on Amazon: The Longest Silence


The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life by David Coggins

The Optimist- A Case for the Fly Fishing LifeThere’s plenty of books about fly fishing and being a fly fisher, but fewer exist about the philosophy of fly fishing. This is one of those: an argument for the skills and sensibilities of fly anglers around the world. It’s a meditation on how fishing teaches focus, inner stillness, and a connection to the natural world, all while being couched in entertaining fishing stories. It shares a great perspective on how fly fishing and the attitudes it requires really can improve your life– but if you’re a fly fisher, you probably knew that already.


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Fly-Fishing the 41st by James Prosek

Fly-Fishing the 41st- From Connecticut to Mongolia and Home Again- A Fisherman's OdysseyFly fishing is practiced around the world. In Prosek’s case, this is literal. Fly-Fishing the 41st chronicles his adventures fishing around the 41st parallel– the same latitude, all the way from Connecticut to Mongolia, with stops in Greece, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, and many other exotic fishing locales. It’s a very interesting look at lesser-known fly-fishing destinations and the people who live there.


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Fly Fishing Novels and Fiction

Fly fishing is a great backdrop for fictional stories– it’s a wonderful way to let characters self-reflect, learn about themselves, and even grow a little bit. When you sit down with any of these tales, you’ll find yourself wishing that you could fish these fictional locales!


The River Why by David James Duncan

The River WhyOne of the classics of the unofficial fly fishing book canon, The River Why has been popular since its publication in 1983. The novel is a coming-of-age comedy about love, nature, and the quest for self-discovery, set in the Pacific Northwest and featuring one man’s quest for steelhead salmon. The story’s protagonist, Gus Orviston, seeks function in a remote cabin away from his dysfunctional family. For Gus, fly fishing isn’t just a physical experience; it’s a spiritual one as well, as his quest for self-knowledge tests him with unpredictable experiences.


Book Information:

  • Length: 418 pages
  • Year Published: 1983 (most recent edition 2013)
  • Buy on Amazon: The River Why


A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

A River Runs through It and Other StoriesPerhaps the best-known fly fishing story in history, A River Runs Through It is just as exciting a novella as it is a film. Maclean’s passion for fly-fishing, the natural world, and the interplay of life and art, created a classic of the American West. This new edition, with a foreword by Robert Redford, will introduce a fresh audience to Maclean’s beautiful prose and understated emotional insights.


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Hemingway on Fishing by Ernest Hemingway, edited by Nick Lyons

Hemingway on FishingIt shouldn’t come as a surprise that the author of The Old Man and the Sea was a passionate angler himself. From his Michigan childhood to his twilight years in Florida, Hemingway was never far from a river or ocean. Fly fishing was a constant feature of his life, and this book collects his short stories and articles that revolve around the pursuit of fulfillment on the open water.


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The Laughing Trout: A Novel of Fly Fishing in A Mad, Mad World of Love and Pandemonium by Jim Ure

The Laughing Trout: A Novel of Fly Fishing in A Mad, Mad World of Love and Pandemonium.If you’ve ever been on a group fishing trip, you know the mayhem and hilarity that often follow. This story is the story of a professional fishing guide who tricks his annoying game warden cousin– and by extension, most of the world. He watches as his little corner of the river descends into bedlam– but coming clean might mean wrecking his best chance at finding true love. What’s a fly fisher to do when the world descends on his river in search of a fish that doesn’t exist? In this case, he just has to laugh about it.


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The Reel Sisters by Michelle Cummings

The Reel SistersThe Reel Sisters is the story of five women who would otherwise never be friends, were it not for their devotion to fly fishing. It’s a powerful novel about how anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can find themselves through fly fishing and learn a little bit more about how they work in the world each time they step into the river.


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Travers Corners: Classic Stories about Fly Fishing and a Small Montana Town by Scott Waldie

Travers Corners- Classic Stories about Fly Fishing and a Small Montana TownIn the same spirit as Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, Scott Waldie’s Travers Corners takes you to a rural town where “nothing much has happened since Herbert Hoover stopped for gas.” What Travers Corners lacks in modern media and conveniences, it makes up for with the quality of the local fishing. You’ll fall in love with the cast of characters in this quirky little community– it’s just a shame they’re all fictional!


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This list is never complete. New content and books are coming out every year. If you’d like to see new additions to this list, contact us with your thoughts.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about