Back to Balsa

Back to Balsa

Martyn White | Thursday, 12 August 2021

Since getting back from Okinawa there's been little in the way of fishing going on for me. First I was avoiding wet wading the rivers until the holes I'd rubbed in my feet had healed a bit and then we got hit with a typhoon which scuppered any hope of getting out. This let me catch up on some reading and luckily coincided with a new book arriving. Kirk Dietrich's excellent Tying Bugs.

I've been facscinated by warm water bugs since I first saw them in a fly tying book I was given as a kid. They were so different from anything you saw in Scotland at that time. Bulging, leggy monstrosities of cork and feather. Even the names grabbed the attention; Boogle Bug, Sneaky Pete and the Round Dinny. I loved them instantly. When asked about American fly tying many people probably think of things like Catskill dries maybe Wullfs, but these aren't that unique really. But bass bugs? A unique style of fly that is pure, audacious Americana.

When I moved to Japan, it didn't take me long to start carving my own balsa and cork bugs. At the time there was some information available online, but there was still a lot of trial and error. Eventually I got pretty decent at it but never really got to where I wanted to be. The problem was I just wasn't going through enough of them to really develop the skills. I've seen a couple of Kirk's videos and found them very helpful. So when I saw this book was coming out, I got it on pre-order straight away, and I'm glad I did. It is excellent. Really. It seems pleasantly well edited for a fishing book too, I've not spotted any of the errata so commonly found in the genre. I can only suppose Kirk had an actual angler & bug maker proof read the manuscript and photo notes as well as the publisher's proofer. I've not read the book cover to cover yet, but I've skimmed through all of it a few times with some deep diving at several parts. It's well laid out in an accessible manner, the explanations are clear and the photography is very good. Most importantly though, the content is excellent. There are all manner of useful tips on every stage of the bug making process, from material selection to painting & finishing to dressing the final fly. I'll not give away too much but the candle wax technique was a real eye opener for me.

Obvously this book is going to be most useful for people who live where there are bass, but there are all manner of other species that will eat these bugs in fresh or saltwater. Big perch love a little bug twitched near structure on a summer's evening, seabass and yellowtail love a dog walking pencil slider and it seems that Bernd has been tying something similar for asp recently. Big trout will chase and eat a 1/4" popper fished lochstyle too. Even if it's not immediately apparent, I'm sure the adventurous fly tyer will find a use for some kind of bug in their fishing. Anyway, I've just ordered some balsa blocks and dowels along with some cork balls and paint supplies. Time to restart my bug habit.

Tying Bugs: The Complete Book of Poppers, Sliders and Divers for Fresh and Salt Water by Kirk Dietrich is published by Stackpole and is availaible on Kindle or paperback here