THE BEST FLY FISHING AUTHORS OF ALL TIME
May 30th, 2022
The best fly fishing authors are almost always maverick fly anglers. They’re rebels who refuse to accept the status quo. They experiment often, and they question everything.
I’ve lost count of how many fly fishing books I’ve read. I’ve always got two or three I’m in the process of reading. I rarely read fiction, it just doesn’t appeal to me as much as non-fiction.
Each of the authors I list below have written more than one book, and this has given the fly fishing community plenty of opportunity to examine the usefulness of their literature.
They’re listed in no particular order.
The list you’re about to read is comprised of the best of all time, and if you’re seeking to deepen your skillset, if you’re devoted to our art, then their writings can push you to the next level.
Let’s dive in.
The Best Fly Fishing Authors
He was a deep thinker, and a maverick. His face is on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of fly fishing history.
Widely considered the originator of fly fishing with nymphs, it was so frowned upon in merry old England that they expelled him from his fly fishing club for using them. He questioned everything, and thought outside the box.
Skues has authored quite a few books, one of which I detailed above. His books aren’t always easy to find, but with a little effort, you’ll locate them online. He’s without question one of the best fly fishing authors of all time.
Here’s a picture of GEM Skues.
Wulff was an icon—maybe the icon—of fly fishing for many years. He had a rebellious streak in his personality, that is to say, he questioned conventional “wisdom” (the great ones always do).
He’s well known for debunking the commonly circulated belief that if your waders fill with water, you won’t be able to swim and may drown in deeper water. He did this by putting on his waders, then jumping from a bridge into a deep river several times. He was just fine. You can read about the experiment in The Compleat Lee Wulff.
Fly fishing literature wouldn’t be nearly as rich without his meaningful contributions.
Here’s Lee Wulff doing what he does best.
Leonard M. Wright Jr.
Mr. Wright was borderline mutinous. The common thread amongst the best fly angling authors is that they didn’t accept traditional theories and ideas, which is what led to their revolutionary way of thinking.
Leonard was a maverick of mavericks. He didn’t just question long-held fly fishing beliefs—he took great pleasure in annihilating them. He took his fair share of mockery, but he stood his ground and history has judged him well.
No one understands streamer fishing like Galloup. If you listen to him get interviewed, or read his books, it’s abundantly clear that he too did his own research and toppled long-standing beliefs. He’s a non-conformist.
Streamer fishing used to be looked down upon in fly fishing circles, but Galloup helped force a paradigm shift in thinking. He pioneered some of the most effective streamer patterns ever, and authored the definitive streamer fishing book.
He’s got a fun personality, and his words exude confidence from a lifetime in fly fishing. Some people aren’t aware that he loves conventional and live bait fishing as well—he’s no snob. If there’s one guy in the fly fishing world who I’d like to have a beer with, it’s Galloup.
It’s likely that Joe Humphreys is more knowledgeable than any other trout angler in the world. I realize that’s a strong statement, but he still casts flies in his 90’s, and has been doing so ever since he was a young kid in Pennsylvania.
He learned from George Harvey as a young man, and has greatly refined his craft in the decades since. Ever heard of the tuck cast?
When I listen to Joe Humphreys speak, his patience always seems ever so slightly frayed. Maybe it’s just that he’d rather be out on the water—I’m not sure.
The expression “high-sticking” irritates him, and he doesn’t like the term “Euro-nymphing” either, since he claims the method originated decades ago in America, not Europe.
Joe Humphreys is a thinker, and a genius fly fisherman. His books aren’t necessarily for beginners, and may not even be fully digested by intermediates, but with 70+ years of experience they’re worth a read.
Here’s a picture of Joe with his 34-inch Pennsylvania state record brown trout.
Landon is one of the few fly fishing authors on my list who is actually a full time guide (Kelly Galloup also was in years past), so he spends loads of time on the water—specifically, the South Platte river in Colorado where he’s been guiding for over two decades.
He’s written several books (my favorite being Sight Fishing for Trout), and even put together a beautiful film that I really enjoyed and have watched twice, called Mastering the Short Game.
Landon is an advisor to some very impressive companies including Simms, R.L. Winston, and Scientific Anglers. He’s clearly passionate about fly fishing, and that devotion comes through in his writing (and the video).
Whenever you come across one of his books, or have a chance to listen to an interview with him, it’s worth your time. He’s relatively young, so his body of work (and mastery) will no doubt expand with time.
No list of the best fly fishing authors could be taken seriously without the inclusion of Tom Rosenbauer, a man with over 50 years of experience on the water.
He was a commercial fly tier by the age of 14, and has been working for Orvis most of his professional life, where he is currently the head of marketing.
He’s unusually modest with a good sense of humor, and has a real down-to-earth writing style. I’ve read several of his books, and they’re all easy to read and immediately applicable. It’s probably not a stretch to say he’s influenced my fly fishing more than any other author.
Rosenbauer has a fondness for chasing fish in both freshwater and saltwater, and has published (at last count) ten books, covering a wide breadth of topics from fly tying to reading the water. It’s clear that fly tying has a special place in his heart.
Despite becoming extremely politically correct over the years (he recently corrected a revered podcast guest by asking him to use the phrase “fly Angler” instead of “fly fisherman” because it was non-discriminatory), his writings are good reference material.
Wet Fly Authors
Wet flies seem to be going the way of the Dodo bird. They’ve fallen out of favor with most modern fly anglers, and that’s unfortunate. If you’re one of the few who is intrigued by this method, there are two people whose work I’d encourage you to follow.
The first is Dave Hughes. He’s written a book on wet flies that is generally considered the finest work on the subject. It’s a thick book that covers a tremendous amount of information. In all honesty, I’m not all the way through it yet—but I’ll get there.
The other wet fly expert I’d recommend you follow is Davy Wotton. I’m not aware of any books he’s written, but he has a penchant for releasing instructional DVDs—that’s his thing.
He’s based on the White river in Arkansas where he swings flies in the traditional British manner (yes, he’s British).
He seems to despise beadhead wet flies. I imagine it’s because he views them as a corruption of the classic method of using unweighted flies on the swing. Davy Wotton is actually a fan of the Dave Hughes book I mentioned above.
Fortunately for us, many of the best fly fishing authors wrote several books–rarely where they one-and-done writers. Their literature effectively transports you onto the water with them.
Don’t forget to check out my article on the best fly fishing books of all time. Many of them are written by the authors on this list.
Some of the above writers are famous, and some you’ve likely never heard of before. It’s a great mix of those who excel at explaning the minutiae of successful fly angling, and the ones who write from a more macro level.
This list will remain fluid, and no doubt will grow as new authors reveal themselves.
About the Author
My name's Sam and I'm a fly fishing enthusiast just like you. I get out onto the water 80+ times each year, whether it's blazing hot or snow is falling. I enjoy chasing everything from brown trout to carp, and exploring new waters is something I savor. My goal is to discover something new each time I hit the water. Along those lines, I record everything I learn in my fly fishing journal so I can share it with you.