Saturday, 14 October 2017 08:03

'South African Fishing Flies ' – a review

by David Weaver  -  

Fly fishing, like life, is all about choices. The more choices we make the more instinctive our decisions become, the more we rely on our instincts the more fun we have.

As a fly fisher, you will spend a lot of time standing alongside water pondering things.  Hopefully all work conundrums are solved before you get to the water.  The problems of life and the opposite sex are best debated after a few whiskeys, and politics, well that you just leave behind.  But one of the most interesting things that you will ponder is “who was the genius that decided to tie this brilliant fly that is just smashing the fish”, and then there is always, “I’m not catching fish but I’m sure one of those other patterns in my box will”.

It is often discussed, the process that has led to the ultimate pattern, the fish that were missed or the strikes refused before… this was added or that removed, from a fly.  We are, as fly fishers fascinated by the intricacies of our pursuit.  Sometimes these patterns are mere whims, other times they are born out of observation of the insects around us and sometimes pure chance.  I chuckled to read that the Red-eyed Damsel has red eyes because Hugh Huntley ran out of black chenille.  That is just one of the stunning anecdotes that are shared in this gem of a book.

Click in images to enlarge them

Front cover

The attractive front cover

Having been involved, both collectively and singularly in the development of certain patterns, I can assure the reader that it is seldom an erudite and lucid moment that results in a fly’s design, but rather a foggy walk along a streamside of experiences that eventually leads one to the clarity that is a perfect pattern.

With clarity comes simplicity and like any good rock song, some of the best patterns are beautifully simple in their construction, sparse in their dressing and alive in their action and performance.  To enjoy a song at a live performance is far more thrilling than through an aux chord.  This book is like being at the concert, sharing the sounds and sights of the tyers emotions, thoughts and the brilliance of this book allows us to live the pattern.

Each fly has a story, each fly is a process, each fly has spent time alongside good water and like you, every fly has a history.  So isn’t it great that our flies, and I say ‘our flies’, as the patterns described in this book belong to every South African fly-fisher, are immortalized and remembered in this book.  The processes that led to their design, the stories that surround their evolution and the wonderful anecdotes that give them life. 

Back cover

Peter Brigg at his vice

We celebrate Ed and Peter’s stunning book, and I hope that we cherish these stories and pass them on to the next generation.  This is not the end of the road for these patterns but only another step in their morph through time.  Flies, like our pursuits, are ever-changing and developing and it’s just great that we have dedicated authors out there who can pull master-pieces like this together, bringing our flies into focus and highlighting the people behind the patterns.


Ed chapter

Ed Herbst on a Western Cape stream in a page from the book

This choice to buy this book should be easy, more instinctive. It is quite brilliant and beautifully put together…buy it… not only will it be more fun but your fly fishing dream towards fulfilment will become a little closer.  Understand the pattern and you will surely fish it with more passion.  Without passion our pursuit at fly fishing is merely casting practice.

With the average paperback in South Africa costing between R250 and R350, this beautiful coffee table book with colour photographs on each page is good value at R300. Fly fishers and tyers outside the country can order it by contacting Shelton Hlongwane at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

David Weaver is the resident guide on Sterkfontein Dam as his numerous articles in Flyfishing magazine attest. He and his wife Gill, run theRose Garden Manor HouseB&B in nearby Harrismith – phone 083 303 4230

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