A Perfect Fish: Illusions in Fly Tying, by Ken Abrames

A Perfect Fish: Illusions in Fly Tying, by Ken Abrames

A Perfect Fish: Illusions in Fly Tying by Ken Abrames is fundamentally different than any fly tying book I have ever read. It is poetry, art, and craft all woven into a very unique piece of literature. Most tying books are organized around step-wise photos that show how to assemble a particular fly or series of flies. They describe why it is important to use a certain technique or material and why following each step is critical to success. These books teach technique, material management, and attention to detail. They assume that if the finished fly exactly matches the sample, it will catch fish because of it.

Abrames on the other hand, takes a spiritual approach to fly tying. His flies begin as feelings. They spring from memories- fleeting images and flashes of light. He visualizes the illusion of life the emotion, the spirit, and the elusive energies that tie together living creatures. These images and ideas grow and develop and eventually they are reduced to an essence. When the essence is revealed, Abrames ties what he sees. He is far more an artist than a curator.

Abrames writes, "Within a brief moment I realized that to fish, flies are perceived as living beings and even if they are perfect replicas to the human eye they may not catch fish because what a fish responds or reacts to in a fly is not exact physical likeness but the illusion of life. This single realization changed my awareness and from that moment on, a new and powerful direction emerged in my fly tying, that of trying to create the illusion of life within the fly itself."

Although Abrames poetry, art, and unique fishing philosophies wind their way through the pages of A Perfect Fish, it is not just a spiritual fishing guide. It is much more. The book is full of Abrames fly patterns and it provides guidance on when, where, and how to fish them. Most of Abrames patterns are tied using natural fibers (hair and feathers) and many of them are tied in a flat wing design. Flat wing flies incorporate a slender feather, tied flat, into their bodies. The feather causes the fly to suspend and plane in a seductive manner. Currents and turbulence add to the lifelike movement of these flies, so they are often fished by setting up drifts in moving water, especially in the surf zone. Flat wing flies have never gained wide popularity among Texas surf fishermen, but fly fishing the surf is somewhat of an infant sport here.

Abrames calls his unique creative style of tying flat wings and other spirited patterns the "R.L.S. Method." At the bottom of the last page of the book, Abrames writes, "R.L.S. stands for Roccus Leneatus Saxatilis, the old Latin name for striped bass which seems to reflect the spirit of the fish much better than the modern Latin name. A perfect name for a perfect fish."

If you are looking for a catalogue of fly patterns and taxonomic designs, A Perfect Fish is not the right book for you. But if you are searching for a different type of book- one that will generate in you a spark of creativity and possibly enrich your entire approach to fly tying and angling, I highly recommend it.

A Perfect Fish: Illusions in Fly Tying
By Ken Abrames
110 pp. Frank Amato Publications, Inc. $29.95

ISBN: 1-57188-138-7