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Best Books on Fly Fishing

It might still be cold outside but spring will be here soon and with it a renewed sense of hope. If you’re an anxious angler you’ve probably already spent your winter re-organizing your tackle box and cleaning your rod and reel – but now what? How about reading up on angling to get yourself prepared for the season?


There are dozens of fly-fishing sites with loads of guides, tutorials, and personal stories, but it’s hard to beat hitting your favorite recliner with a good book and learning about your favorite hobby.


To keep you busy during winter, let’s lay out 10 of the best books on fly fishing whether they be practical guides, personal essays, fiction, or a mix of both. With a few good books by your side, you’ll be ready to go once the ice melts.

10 Best Books on Fly Fishing

Best Instructional Books on Fly Fishing

The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing – Tom Rosenbauer


Every prospective angler needs an overview of fly-fishing basics before they hit the water, even seasoned traditional spin fishers. To have a chance at catching a fish you need to learn to set up your rod and reel, tie your line and flies, make a decent cast, read the water, and much more.


Who can teach you these basics? How about a company that’s been outfitting anglers with high-quality fishing equipment since 1856. The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing has everything you need to get started with helpful photos, illustrations, diagrams, and more. Study up on the guide and you’ll be ready to reel one in.

The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide – Tom Rosenbauer


If you’ve graduated from Orvis’s Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing, you’re ready for the full-scale Orvis Fly Fishing Guide. This continually updated tome has sold hundreds of thousands of copies thanks to its updated information, concise language, and more than 400 illustrations and graphics. This guide will help you better prepare for your day on the water and succeed when you get there.


Bonus Book: If you like the Orvis beginner guide and want to learn more about the art check out the Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Tying.  


The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing – Kirk Deeter, Charlie Meyers


Think of The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing as a cheat sheet for wrangling in the fish. The book starts with basic tips on making your cast and choosing the right fly and graduates to advanced pointers on reading the water, landing a fish, and much more. A handy and easily digestible guide to toss in your truck’s glovebox or keep on the boat.

Best Nonfiction and Fiction Books on Fly Fishing

50 Places to Fly Fish Before You Die: Chris Santella


There’s no better feeling than fishing in a gorgeous environment. With the right setting, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting skunked if you have a beautiful backdrop. Author Chris Santella scoured the globe for stories from anglers about places that are truly special to anglers. Backed with photographs of the people, places, and fish, 50 Places to Fly Fish Before You Die can help you make a bucket list of fly-fishing destinations or keep you company on a bad weather day.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories: Norman Maclean


Even if you have seen the movie, A River Runs Through It is a seminal work in fly fishing lore. First published in 1976, the book tells the semi-autobiographical story of author Norman McLean and his brother Paul growing up fly-fishing in rural Montana. The story touches on the love of fly fishing, the struggles of real life, and paints an inspiring portrait for any angler to enjoy.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century:  Kirk Wallace Johnson

While fishing in New Mexico author Kirk Wallace Johnson noticed a colorful salmon tie in his guide’s repertoire. After a brief explanation of Victorian salmon ties, the guide mentioned a museum heist of birds to Johnson, which began years-long research project into the lucrative world of Victorian Salmon Flies and how one obsessive fly-tier pulled off the biggest museum specimen theft in Britain’s history. One part investigative journalism and one part exploration into human behavior, the Feather Thief is an ultra-entertaining read.

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


Burke gives a colorful history of the west Florida coast’s biggest angling obsession, catching the world’s largest tarpon. Burke, a tarpon fisher himself, documents the craze during the 1970s and 80s in the tiny town of Homosassa as anglers vied for the biggest of this legendary fly-fishing species. Burke interviews legends like Stu Apte and Lefty Kreh to get the full story while also delving into how environmental impact has shaped today’s tarpon fishing. An exciting read about the world’s most exciting fly-fishing catch.

History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies: Ian Whitelaw


Whitelaw traces the ancient art of fly fishing back 2,000 years before finishing his book on today’s modern flies. The book focuses on flies through the ages but also talks about how we arrived at today’s modern rods and reels. Chalked full of fly tying tips, beautiful illustrations, history, and more, History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies is a great read for all fishing skill levels.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals – and Other Forgotten Skills (Natural Navigation):  Tristan Gooley

Yes, that’s a mouthful of a title, and this book’s packed with useful information for fishers, especially those who like to get far away from civilization. The Lost Art is packed with tips and tricks including using the sun and moon to tell time and find direction, how to track wildlife, identifying patterns, and becoming in-touch with what nature is telling us. A thorough read of this book and you’ll be abundantly prepared to fish in more rewarding (but sometimes unforgiving) territory.

Get Reading


With a mix of nonfiction, fiction, and some trail tips, these ten books will carry you through the winter with both entertainment and information. Get your library started and try to get through it before spring comes.