We got our hands on an advanced copy of the new second edition of Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara Rod & Reel.
Learning an outdoor skill from a book seems a little archaic these days, but the purists (and the English majors) among us can always appreciate flipping through pages of a truly educational and entertaining guide.
I never knew this as well as I do now until I read Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara Rod & Reel from Patagonia Books for the first time. Early in my own fly fishing experiments (I call them that because there weren't many fish landed), it was an eye-opening amount of knowledge that slowly trickled into my brain and began to translate to the stream.
It's primarily written by Patagonia founder and lifelong fly fisherman Yvon Chouinard, with help from Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo (both well-respected anglers and authors in their own right). Soaking up their combined experience was like having three of my own fishing guides I could carry around with me.
The approach of the book definitely helped keep my fly fishing gear collection from overflowing. Tenkara fly fishing, which I'd only heard of in passing, was fully introduced to me through the book, and it was enough to convince me to get a rod with no reel and try it out.
Yes, buying new gear made me realize I don't need so much gear. Ironic, isn't it?
Still, I can honestly say I got more out of the book than any single online video, instructional or not, that I've been able to track down. When news broke of a second edition, I jumped at the chance to score an advanced copy and see what was updated.
Right off the bat, the thing you're not supposed to judge a book by struck me as, well, awesome. The new second edition of Simple Fly Fishing has stunning new cover artwork by artist Dwight Hwang, which he created using the traditional Japanese Gyotaku method. It rings true to the heritage fly fishing can (and should) celebrate.
The new book also features eight additional full color fly designs, which is great; for some those designs were the highlight of the first edition. I haven't cracked in to fly tying, but the detailed photos of both dry flies and wet flies were in some cases my first good look at a pattern. Maybe I'd read the name, but I'd never actually seen one.
Now when I'm in a fly shop, I like to think I have pretty good ID skills on sight.
Renowned fish artist James Prosek adds his touch to the new edition, with extra stories and instructional illustrations. There's also a setup guide for a tenkara rod (again emphasizing the simplicity of it all), and even more great photos.
On the surface, Simple Fly Fishing gives you a solid understanding of basic fly principles, but beneath that is a greater lesson, useful across disciplines.
The lesson lies in Patagonia's commitment to conservation efforts that will help fish, and the waters they live in, last for generations here in the United States and beyond. Using the sport of fly fishing as a way to get folks to appreciate wild places and pay attention to environmental concerns is fair in my book.
In fact, later this year there are plans to release "Artifishal," a Patagonia Feature Documentary exploring wild salmon and their recovery. Then in the fall, the company will launch best-selling author Mark Kurlansky's Salmon and the Earth to spread the book's message that "To save the salmon, we must save the planet, and to save the planet, we must save salmon."
That line is great, but this quote from Chouinard that accompanied the second edition's official release might be even better:
"Most anglers soon discover simple fly fishing helps preserve our capacity for wonder," says Mr. Chouinard, who won Angler of the Year in 2009. "It can teach us to see, smell, and feel the miracles of stream life, with the beauty of nature and serenity all around, as we pursue wild fish."
You can't argue against preserving that sort of thing, right? Couldn't have said it better myself.
I'm still dreaming about a trip to some remote mountain streams in Wyoming or Montana, and packing my fly rod for Italy to find a spot on the Sesia River. Until the dreams come true, I'm more than content reading about them in a book this good.