No Fly Fishing Guide? No Problem

This book claims it’s (almost) as good as being in the water

Fly Fishing: Strategies for estuaries, bays, and beaches. By Ken Hanley. Lyons Press, 2003. 182 pages. $19.95.

First things first: I am writing this book review without any personal experience in fly fishing. And so, I will trust the experts on the back cover, who claim that Ken Hanley is the most experienced and knowledgeable instructor and guide available, and that reading this book is (almost) as good as being in the water with him! He has taught saltwater fly fishing clinics for 30 years, and has written previous books and guides on the subject. He has also been published in various fly fishing magazines.

The author believes 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish, and that those who are most successful are so because they utilize two kinds of skills. They are good observers and they are also competent technicians who know how best to use their equipment.

The book has five parts (they’re not called chapters). Those don’t include the introduction, which contains two and a half pages of descriptions of some of the skills and knowledge needed to be successful, (i.e. being keen observers and naturalists, and also having imaginative skills in the ways of using their equipment).

Part one is titled “Fly Fishing the Pacific Inshore,” and it helped me to understand the influence of tides, which has always been a kind of mystery to me. Hanley says that understanding is needed to be a successful fly fisherman. There is also a definition and detailed description of tides. The explanations were simple enough for me to understand, and the black and white photos on almost every page help clarify his descriptions. Part one also has lists of important species living in the many different Pacific coastline environments and habitats.

Part four describes suitable watercraft; from kayaks to canoes, skiffs, boats, pontoons, and float tubes. Hanley stresses the need for carrying safety and emergency gear in all forms of watercraft, and again, he offers a list.

The last part of this book contains "fly portraits and pattern recipes," (his words), most of them with listings of appropriate bait, followed by a bibliography and index. From sea bass to barracuda, salmon to sharks, Hanley covers a multitude of techniques, and answers questions about fishing for saltwater game fish on the Pacific inshore. The book is detailed, with many photos, lists of equipment, descriptions, and photographs.

Other interesting bits in the book include color plates that illustrate some of the techniques Hanley has described, as well as four pages of color portraits of examples of flies used by the author. There is also a list of principal food items in the diets of Pacific saltwater predators.

Hanley tells fishermen how learning new ways of fishing can increase their odds of success. His techniques and helps are easily understood (even by me). I recommend this book to both novice and experienced fishermen.

I hope, as a non-fisherman, I have done right by this author. Is it too late for me? Reading this book and looking at Hanley's many photographs makes me want to gain at least a few fishing skills and become a fly fisherman!

The book, "Fly Fishing the Pacific Inshore," is available at El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto. That would be my bookstore, come by and say hi. Or email me at