The 9 Best Fly Fishing Books of All Time

Last updated on August 24th, 2023.

Leonard Schoenberger
Latest posts by Leonard Schoenberger (see all)

Fly fishing books are a great way to take a virtual fishing trip in your mind. Especially when the days get shorter.

Fly fishing books come in a variety of styles and content. Some of the most beautiful ones comprise different stories on the subject of fly fishing such as Thomas McGuane’s classic “The Longest Silence” or Roderick Haig-Brown’s “A River Never Sleeps“. Others have become classics in fishing technique such as Mel Krieger’s “The Essence of Fly Casting” or Lefty Kreh’s “Fly-Casting Fundamentals”.

A third category would be fly fishing books presenting some of the most beautiful places to fly fish around the world such as Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die or Flywater: Fly-Fishing Rivers of the West.

In this list we narrowed the best fly fishing books down to our top 9.

The Best Fly Fishing Books You Should Read

The Longest Silence – Thomas McGuane

This book would make our list even if we had to narrow it down to a top 3. It is an absolute classic in fly fishing books and probably one of the most mentioned if you ask a fly fisherman for their favorite book on the topic.

The Longest Silence” is a collection of essays that take the reader on exciting fishing trips of all kinds. McGuane is a great angler himself and a great writer. The combination resulted in an all time classic. Other works from Thomas McGuane on fly fishing that we highly recommend include My Life in Fishing: Favorite Long Stories Told Short and Upstream: Fly Fishing in the American West.


The Feather Thief – Kirk Wallace Johnson

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson made our Top 9 despite not being directly about fly fishing. However it’s plot will fascinate any fly fisherman or woman.

In 2009, a young fly tier named Edwin Rist broke into the British Natural History Museum and made off with hundreds of rare bird skins. These skins, some valued at thousands of dollars apiece, were like gold in the small, passionate group of traditional salmon fly tiers Edwin associated with.

Some of those skins were returned to the museum unharmed. Many however made their way into the secretive world of salmon flies and were never recovered. This book covers the history of the skins, the heist itself, and the aftermath. 


The Essence of Fly Casting – Mel Krieger

Mel Krieger went down in fly fishing history as one of the best fly casters and fly casting instructor to have ever taught the sport. His book “The Essence of Fly Casting” has become one of the classics in fly casting technique.

Detailed instructions and dozens of photographs teach you the essentials of fly casting. About any fly fisherman or woman can take something away from Mel’s teachings no matter whether a beginner, advanced or expert.


Fly-Casting Fundamentals by Lefty Kreh

Lefty Kreh’s “Fly-Casting Fundamentals” is another gold standard work in terms of fly casting technique. Just like Mel Krieger, Kreh dives into every aspect of casting a fly.

This book again is aimed at novices but just as well at seasoned fly fishermen and women who want to freshen up their technique. Everytime I open that book again there is something new to learn. This book should definitely have a place on your fly fishing book shelf.


The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide by Tom Rosenbauer

If you are new to fly fishing and want to get an overview of the sport, The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide by Tom Rosenbauer, is the book of choice for you. Expert angler Tom Rosenbauer covers every topic from tackle and gear to casting, fly selection and tactics in fresh and saltwater.

The book is a fantastic resource that is worth every penny. You can pull it out of your classic fly fishing books shelf on a cold winter day and freshen up your knowledge. You will always find something new to learn.


50 Places to Fly Fish Before you Die

The fly fishing book 50 Places to Fly Fish Before you Die – Chris Santella is the perfect place to start planning your next fly fishing adventure. It covers the globe’s most beautiful spots to fly fish in your lifetime.

If you are looking for a great gift for your fly fishing friend this book is also an excellent choice and must not be missing from any fly fishing book shelf.


Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers – John Gierach

John Gierach is an author of fly fishing books that have become favorites among fly fishers around the globe. After A Fly Rod of Your Own (John Gierach’s Fly-fishing Library), Another Lousy Day in Paradise and Dances with Trout (John Gierach’s Fly-fishing Library) and Trout Bum (John Gierach’s Fly-fishing Library) (to name only a few), John Gierach’s newest work is just as brilliant: Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers (John Gierach’s Fly-fishing Library).

Like in his earlier books, Gierach packs lessons learned from a life of fly fishing into his new book. If you want to get the full grasp of this fantastic author you should start reading his early books and then make your way forward to Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers (John Gierach’s Fly-fishing Library).


A River Never Sleeps

A River Never Sleeps” by Roderick Haig-Brown is another of our all-time favorite fly fishing books. Just like Thomas McGuane’s “The Longest Silence” (McGuane wrote the afterword for “A River Never Sleeps”) is collection of beautiful essays about fly fishing adventures.

Haig-Brown takes the reader on epic fly fishing trips in a time when wild fish existed in abundance. Definitely one of the best fly fishing books of all time.


A River Runs Through It

No list about classic fly fishing books would be complete without this all-time classic: A River Runs Through It – Norman Maclean. It is hard to measure how many people picked up fly fishing after seeing the movie “A River Runs Through It” directed by Robert Redford and starring the young Brad Pitt.

The film is based on the book that bares the same name. It tells the story of two brothers from Montana connected by the love of fly fishing.


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