The Five Best Fly Fishing Books of All Time

We could end up with a variety of answers here because everyone has their own opinions and interests, but I’m sure everybody will agree that Fly Fisher’s Guide to Montana, my first book, heads the class. Don’t bother buying the replacement version by Chuck Robbins as that one doesn’t match up to the book I penned. Alright, you can stop laughing, although I still maintain my version to be a good read and the most personally researched book on fishing in Montana that’s ever been written. I spent 200 days a year for a long, damn time fishing Montana waters and taking notes to share with all of you.

Here are my top five “other” books. Please contribute to this thread in the comment section so that we’ll all know if we’ve missed a book or two that we should read. Thanks, in advance, to all who participate.

Fisherman’s Winter by Roderick L. Haig-Brown

A great read about Patagonia, the way it was long ago.

The Angler’s Coast by Russell Chatham

King salmon, steelhead galore, stripers, and a little from New Zealand. What’s not to like?

McClane’s Game Fish of North America

Sure, it’s not just fly fishing, but every specie you want to catch on a fly is covered here—marlin, tarpon, permit, bonefish, brook trout, steelhead, Atlantic salmon… McClane lived it and writes from heavy experience. And he writes in a way that makes you want to be there, too.

Steelhead Fly Fishing by Trey Combs

If you are a Northwest steelhead guru you own this book. There have been many that have come after this one, but none better researched and pertinent.

The Longest Silence by Tom McGuane

The best essayist in the ff genre. He says his publisher forced him to write about fly fishing, but we’ll forgive him for not being eager. There are some gems in this collection that run deeper than catching fish. Definite classic.

Best books that don’t deal with fly fishing to take on a fly fishing trip:

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn

The Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

Ninety Two In The Shade By Tom McGuane


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11 Responses to The Five Best Fly Fishing Books of All Time

  1. Laura Munson says:

    What about “Troutfishing in America.” Brautigan. That book had a huge effect on me back in my getting-to-know Montana days. yrs. Laura

  2. Jim Nave says:

    Thank god you didn’t mention a certian novela published in 1976 that ruined Missoula. I always thought Trout Bum was pretty great.

  3. Greg in Switzerland says:

    What about the book that taught me the Curits Creek Sneak? Maybe that’s actually a separate subgenre…

  4. Woodstock says:

    Trout Madness makes my top 5. I’d toss Fisherman’s Winter – too much high-brow tweed and briar pipe stuff.

  5. Woodstock says:

    Oh yeah – I forgot…for books not about fishing that you should take on a fishing trip, I’d include a collection of Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories.

    I prefer books of short stories or essays to take on trips. When traveling, I’m often reading in brief spurts: on the plane; in the airport; in the tent when the wind howls and rain comes sideways…

  6. Matt says:

    Trout Magic and Trout Madness by John Voelker (pen name Robert Traver). He was one of a kind.

    Best non-fishing book for a fishing trip: A Sand County Alamanac by Aldo Leopold.

    Greg’s Montana guide was a bible for me on a couple of long road trips a decade ago. Extremely helpful.

  7. Mike says:

    And here you were going to abandon the literary recommendations! Glad you stuck with them. I immediately went to Amazon and got The Longest Silence coming. I’d have to vote for Trout Bum, also, or just about anything Gierach for that matter. The guy is authentic. And despite what that “certain book” did to (or for, depending on your point of view) MT fishing, it is still a classic and a masterpiece. Don’t be hatin’ on the book because of a result that Norman never intended. Missoula was doomed because it has everything going for it.

  8. Personal preference – I’d replace Haig-Brown’s Winter with Fisherman’s Fall or include them both. His intimate, first-hand sense of his native waters and fish is still his best and most important work.

    And for a wonderful read, how about Nick Lyon’s Bright Rivers? I go back for a visit every winter.

    Maybe, Greg, we need to delineate “best” and expand the list: “best” (literature), “best” (instructional), etc… what do you think?

    And stay with the discussions of literature. Some fly fishers actually read – else they wouldn’t be here.

    - Chuck

  9. Travis says:

    An Entirely Synthetic Fish by Anders Halverson has recently earned a spot on any list of top trout books. It is a rare example of excellent research supported by equally outstanding writing.

  10. john D. says:

    Okay, so I come late. So be it..
    #1: Caddisflies; Gary LaFontaine, no doubt the best LOL
    #2:Trout Flies; Gary LaFontaine, etc.
    #3:Learning From The Water;Rene Harrop, not kidding
    #4:Another Lousy Day In Paradise;John Gierach
    #5:Serious Fly Fishing;John Waite (but you have to man enough to read it)

    • Jack O'Grady says:

      John’s the real deal, and so is his book. It takes a truth seeker to absorb the contents and get past the lack of a good editor, but worth the effort in fish released and knowledge gained.

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