Production Fly Tying

By A.K. Best

Winner of the United Fly Tyer's Book Of The Year award in 1989, this book explains the techniques, tools & tricks A.K. has developed & used to tie faster, more consistently & with better results. 320 color photos; 9x11 inches, 224 pgs.


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ISBN: 0-8117-1481-0

EAN: 978-0-8117-1481-5

Binding: Softcover

Publish Date: 28/02/2015

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EXCERPT- from the forward by John Gierach
A.K. Best taught me how to tie flies. That is, I knew how to tie flies when I met him--and they weren't too bad, either--but I tied them laboriously, one at a time, and when they went wrong I usually didn't know why.

A.K. usually did.

To crooked hackles on a dry fly he'd say, the thread wraps around your wings are lumpy, to broken quill bodies he'd say, soak em in water first, to ragged deer hair heads on muddlers he'd say, use a razor blade instead of scissors. A.K. was an established tier when we met, and it seemed like there was nothing about tying flies that he hadn't already figured out. There were days when it was aggravating, but it was always helpful.

We worked together at a fly shop some years ago, and on slow afternoons he'd introduced me to concepts like thread torque (you can either fight it or use it), economy of motion, and working to the strength limit of the material for both control and durability. He convinced me that flies aren't tied individually, but by the dozen. A.K. is now one of the top professional fly tiers in the country. He turns out somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 dozen trout, bass, and saltwater flies for sale in a year, plus samples, prototypes, experiments, and the considerable number he burns up himself in a season's fishing. He is also the custom tier for Orvis. When the new Urban Angler fly shop opened in Manhattan recently, the New York Times was moved to point out that the dry flies for sale there were tied by A.K. Best.

This is a guy who buys dry fly necks by the crate and deer hair by the skin; a guy who has a shoulder cradle on his telephone receiver so he doesn't have to stop tying when he gets a call.

He once told me, I don't really know how to tie a pattern until I've cranked out a hundred dozen of them.

I'm still intimidated by the idea of 100 dozen flies, but I find the production tying approach to be invaluable. Even something as simple as laying out all your paired wings and sized hackles before you start tying makes things go a lot faster by letting you actually tie the fly that's in front of you instead of spending half your time juggling materials.

You don't have to be a professional to have your ducks in a row, and it doesn't matter if you're just whipping up a few #16 Red Quills to fill an empty fly box compartment. You still want the flies to look good and the job to go quickly. What it boils down to is, anyone who ties more than one fly at a single sitting is a production tier. And so is the guy who learns, the evening before leaving on the big trip, that the fly is a size 18, quill- bodied, trailing husk, loop-winged emerger with a sparse hackle on a long-shanked, lightwire hook.

You'll find this to be a dense book that goes into incredible detail, but it couldn't be any other way because details are what make the difference between good flies and poor ones. Here, finally, are the directions that fit in between the tying steps listed in most manuals. Reading the manuscript I got the same feeling I've had picking A.K.'s brain over the last dozen years or so: this is the stuff that no one ever tells you; this is the complete, in-depth truth behind, Step 5--tie in wings.

You'll be tempted to use this book in bits and snatches, looking up whatever wing, tail, or body style you need in the index. That will work, but I think you should read it cover-to- cover first. You'll miss too much if you don't, like why you should use deer hair for the wings on an Elk Hair Caddis, where on the skin that hair should come from, why the deer should have lived in a field rather than a swamp, and how the venison from each animal is likely to taste.

You may also find this book to be a little cranky, but that's because it was written by a cranky guy. No one who ties thousands of dozens of flies in a year and then fishes hard on his days off--usually with a portable fly-tying kit stashed in the truck--is going to be normal.

Take it from me. I fish with him.

John Gierach Lyons, Colorado 1989

Additional information

Weight 1.4 lbs
Dimensions 8.5 × 0.3 × 11 in


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