Best Fly Fishing Books: Recommended Reading to Up Your Game

Last updated on March 26th, 2021

best-selling fly fishing books

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Many things that I have learned about fly fishing came firsthand through experience but there are things that even experience cannot give you. When I am good at something and I want to get better, I turn to literature.

When I was a child, I hit a turning point in my fly fishing adventures. I had decided that I wanted to not only be better at it, but I wanted to learn new things about it. This curiosity is what led me to a career in science and a love of the outdoors.

You can rest assured that there are many excellent books on fly fishing, and they all offer priceless knowledge of your favorite sport. Here we will discuss a handful of what I believe are great additions to the serious angler’s bookshelf.

These are some of the best fly fishing books ever written and they contain information that will enhance your knowledge and skills as a fly fisherman and allow you to try new things as well. So, with that said, let’s dive into our recommendations.

The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide

The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, Revised

When it comes to a complete, covers it all guide, I really like the Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide. This book covers it all and makes a great addition to any novice angler and it also has a few tactics and surprises for the seasoned angler.

From what type of tackle to the tactics you should use, this book covers a great deal and that is why most anglers that like to read, have this book. One factor about this book that I like very much is the fact that it contains advice for fly fishing in saltwater as well as freshwater and for both streams and still water as well.

Because of the spectrum that the book covers, it is a good gift for a friend or family member who is getting into the sport for the first time. Orvis has been around for a long time making good quality products and providing information for the sport. This book keeps with that great tradition.

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The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing

The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing (Little Red Books)

If you were to ask me what book should be a staple of fly fishing literature, I would have to say the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing. This book is highly informative but is imbued with passion as well. Kirk Deeter of Field and Stream and Charlie Meyers of the Denver Post, two top experts in the sport, collaborated here to write one of the best books ever written on fly fishing.

One thing that I love about this book is that it is packed with information, but it reads like someone is just talking to you plainly. This relaxed tone makes it more like a story than a textbook.

Because of the simple manner in which this is written, I highly recommend it for the young novice but even a seasoned angler can benefit from its collective wisdom. As a biologist, I spend quite a bit of time with my nose in a book and they are usually rather technical and dry. While stern books are necessary for my trade, I can assure you that I have a love for a more passionately written book such as this and I think you will too.

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The Total Fly-Fishing Manual: 307 Essential Skills and Tips

The Total Fly Fishing Manual: 307 Essential Skills and Tips

The Total Fly-Fishing Manual is a book jampacked with useful information and detail. With some of the biggest names in sportfishing contributing, you know that you can count on learning a thing or two.

Now this book may be like the ORVIS book we already spoke of but there is one big difference I want to point out. This book is durable enough to take into the field, which makes it a different echelon of book.

I feel like I use that word too much when I write about products, durable. But it is so important because it will make a difference when you do not have to replace it. It seems weird that a book is durable but taking it with you versus leaving it at home is game-changing.

When I say durable, I mean that it is nearly waterproof with metal corners. When I head outside it is usually for multiple days and this book would make for a great campfire read. The book also covers nearly every aspect of fly fishing you can think of and maybe a few things you cannot.

I recommend this book for the angler that is on the go and who may get a little dirty while outside. The durability also makes a good gift for kids because we know how they are on their gear.

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The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing

The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing: 101 Tips for the Absolute Beginner (Orvis Guides)

There are a few different reasons that I like this book. First, the obvious fact that the Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing is a great tool for any beginning angler. I also like how the first book we discussed and this book tie in together.

Without sounding like a broken record at this point, I can assure you that this book is a great gift for someone starting out in their own angling adventures. It covers the basics well such as tackle, casting, retrieval, and other techniques.

Written by Tom Rosenbauer, fly fishing expert and a key contributor to many outdoor media outlets, this work has to be In the conversation whenever we talk about the best fly fishing books for beginners, simply put.

Try to think of this book as a “step 1” for the new angler, so consider this book if you are trying to pique a youngster’s or newbie friend’s interest in the sport as well. Do not be discouraged from this book if you are not a novice, however, because it has a little something for fly fishermen at every level. Just a great book!

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Lords of the Fly: Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World Record Tarpon

Lords of the Fly: Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World Record Tarpon

Some may not be looking for a super technical “how-to” book and, for that, I present to you Lords of the Fly: Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World Record Tarpon. As an outdoorsman, I love fishing, and as a writer, I love a good story.

Fishing can be poetic and can make a moving story. Read any Emerson or Frost and you can see just how poetic mother nature can be. This is the kind of book that you can read for enjoyment in and of itself which is a refreshing break from our mainstream “how to tie 10,002 flies blindfolded” books.

A person who may enjoy a storybook more than me though is my wife, which leads me to assume that this could make a good gift for a significant other as well. It is professionally written and non-fictional which I always enjoy.

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The Bug Book: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Trout Stream Insects

The Bug Book: A Fly Fisher's Guide to Trout Stream Insects

I believe that little boys and girls who think bugs are cool grow up to be anglers. And it is such an important thing to want to understand when it comes to our sport. The Bug Book is a great addition to any fly fisherman who enjoys fishing for trout, especially during the hatch.

Identifying insects in the sense of them being a food source for fish is extremely important to a fly fisherman. Even the slightest details in flies can make or break a strike.

This book is specifically for trout streams, which is handy for any landlocked angler like me. I remember my grandfather telling me to identify bugs on the shore when we fished, it was important to learn and it started a curiosity in me that led to a career.

This book would be very handy for the parent teaching their children the important aspects of fly fishing other than just fly-fishing techniques. Read a book like this and get your entomological bearings and you can be tying flies for yourself while standing in a stream.

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Fly Fishing Advice from an Old Timer

Fly-Fishing Advice from an Old-Timer: A Practical Guide to the Sport and Its Language

Written by avid outdoorsman and fly-fishing angler Ed Quigley, this book serves as the paperback version of asking your grandfather for his fishing secrets. This book is a great read.

I like the broad spectrum of the recommendations he makes such as DVDs, websites, and articles. If you like his book, you may want to dive into his publisher’s portfolio and see some of the other fishing guides they have published in the past.

This book is full of great advice and Mr. Quigley is well-traveled in the sport that he enjoys. Try buying this book as a gift for someone that likes a good story that can teach them a thing or two regardless of skill.

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Flywater: Fly Fishing Rivers of the West

Flywater: Fly-Fishing Rivers of the West

What is sitting on your coffee table right now? Probably the usual coffee table stuff, right? Well, Flywater is a great book that features some of the most beautiful images of American waters. It is a sure thing to have if you like the aesthetically pleasing images to have handy to view anytime.

Aside from the beautiful pictures, there are also great stories to take away from this book and it is a great asset to anyone who likes to read a good story. Written by Grant McClintock, it features the many areas he has visited in his fishing adventures.

A thing that I find remarkably interesting about this book is that it does not have to be for the angler at all. There is enough beauty in this book to make it appealing to many. Honestly, in terms of who would like this book, I think just about anyone who can admire beauty can admire this book.

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History of Fly Fishing – Fishing in Fifty Flies

History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies

Fly fishing is an ever-changing thing. Knowing what to use season to season may vary and the History of Fly Fishing does a great job explaining that. Believe it or not, there is a wealth of information you as an angler can gather from looking backward.

For example, it is not fly fishing specific, but I learned how to use plugs and spoons better from my years as a child making them from driftwood. We should look at the gear our fathers used and learn from it and this book is great for that.

I love the variety of the flies that are discussed in this book, as there are no real specific niches in which the book follows. Try this one out for a light but informal read and learn a bit about flies. This is also a great book for the fly-tying enthusiast who wants to look back in history a bit and learn how things were.

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The Feather Bender’s Fly-Tying Techniques

The Feather Bender's Flytying Techniques: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic and Modern Trout Flies

Barry Ord Clarke delivers a stunning guide to tying flies in The Feather Bender’s Fly-Tying Techniques. I love to tie flies and I love learning new ways to do it as well. It is an art that truly never stays the same and you never will truly master it because creativity gets in the way.

I always appreciate when a skilled artist passes down his techniques and tricks to others and this book delivers. Fly-Tying can be a rewarding experience and the knowledge you will receive in entomology will help you become a better angler as well.

This is one of the best fly tying books I’ve read and it certainly belongs on the shelf of anyone with a passion for sitting at a table with a clamp and tying materials to create flies for his or her next outing. This would also be a good gift to get a friend into tying if you think he or she would enjoy that.

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101 Favorite Nymphs and Wet Flies

101 Favorite Nymphs and Wet Flies: History, Tying Tips, and Fishing Strategies

101 Favorite Nymphs and Wet Flies is cramped with a ton of information on nymphs and wet flies as I am sure you have guessed,  but it also contains other information that the reader may find interesting. This book, in its own way, includes information from many of the books we have discussed already.

I like this book because it dives into the history of the nymph and how to successfully tie it. The nymph may be one of the most fished flies so having a book specifically on it is a great resource.

The know-how to understand and even tie the nymph fly is going to help you tremendously in your fishing adventures and this amazing book will aid you in that endeavor. For that reason, I recommend that the angler looking to hone his or her skills with wet flies should have a look at this book.

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Why You Should Read These Fly Fishing Books

Without sounding like your childhood teacher, I will say that books are very important to learn new things but they are also like a whetstone that is needed to hone and sharpen your knowledge from time to time.

If you choose to take the journey into these books to better hone your fly fishing, then please do so understanding that literature takes time and the more you read the more you absorb. We have tried to list the best books on the subject of fly fishing with something for anglers of different skill levels and interests in the sport.

I recommend that you buy a beginner’s book if that is where you are in your fly fishing journey or maybe a book that covers a broad spectrum of topics to peak your interests.

I used to sit in chemistry on page 10, but I was always flipping to page 30 to see what amazing things I was going to learn next week. Pursue your outdoor reading with the same curiosity and soon you will have read many of these great books.

This was but a start for you because there are many more out there. I wish you a happy time on the water and an even happier time reading a new book about fishing.

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