Fly Cards

Daniel Hackett

Reviewed by Greg French

For many years I have been quite content to use traditional Tasmanian fly patterns — the Red Tag, Mrs Simpson, Green Nymph, that sort of thing —after all, the choice of destination, the ability to see fish, and the ability to cast reasonably accurately are far more important than the choice of fly. In the last few seasons my attitude to flies has changed, however, quite dramatically so.
I am still no match-the-hatch man, but I have come to appreciate more than ever that there is something intangible in a good fly, something Rob Sloane in the Truth About Trout called ‘function’, that has recently increased my catch-rate by at least 20%. Just putting on a nondescript #12 something is no longer good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for you either.
The single most important thing about a functional fly is that it consistently sits in the appropriate part of the water column. Emergers need to hang properly in the film, nymphs need to sink at the right rate, wets shouldn’t get snagged in the weeds. I also like flies that I can see so I don’t miss subtle takes. But there is more to function than even this.
Anglers the likes of Simon Taylor and Daniel Hackett have convincingly demonstrated to me that when trout are finicky, you need to fish smaller and lighter, and when trout are stubborn you need to fish big and showy.
When Daniel gave me a collection of Fly Cards to review, I was slightly taken aback to realise that twelve of the twenty patterns had already become staples in my fly box. The other eight are also damned fine functional flies (wets good for prospecting, dries good for loch-style, that sort of thing), but they just don’t happen to suit my preferred fishing methods (all of which involve casting to individual trout). Sure, I felt that there were a couple of things missing, notably a whitebait pattern and a cockroach, but I suspect that Daniel intends to redress that minor quibble in the future with ‘booster pack’ of cards.
If the patterns themselves are must-haves, what about the tying notes? I sat down at my vice and tied all twenty flies, step by step, forcing myself to strictly adhere to the instructions on the back of each card, not to do things the way I normally do, and I finished each pattern in a jiffy. Honestly, Fly Cards offer the clearest and most succinct tying advice I’ve ever used.
For good measure, I love the way that the cards rest against my computer screen to provide perfect eye-height viewing of the text and instructional photos. Most fly tying books won’t sit upright, and even when lying down you often need a makeshift paperweight (a large stapler or the like) to tame the rebellious, springy spine.
Fly Cards are unashamedly intended for fly tiers, but they deserve a place in every Australian fly fisher’s library. The illuminating text not only explains the fascinating history of each fly, but also offers valuable insights into why gun anglers like Daniel design and refine flies the way they do. There are reasons why the best anglers catch ten times more fish than average anglers, and Daniel goes some way to helping you understand what those reason are. I could elaborate, but you are better off reading his words yourself.
One final thing that impresses me about Daniel’s latest publication is how good it looks and feels. Like the flies themselves, the cards are unique in concept and delightful in design — the perfect filler for any Santa sack.
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