Friday, October 24, 2008

LaFontaine's Legacy: The Last Flies From An American Master


LaFontaine's Legacy: The Last Flies From An American Master (2008, New York, New York, The Lyons Press) by Al and Gretchen Beatty.

Gary LaFontaine was an innovative and world-famous fly tyer who, sadly, died in 2002 at the age of 56 of Lou Gerhig's Disease. He is known for many flies like the Deep Sparkle Pupa, Diving Caddis and Emergent Sparkle Pupa. Gary is well-respected for his work as a writer, having authored five books, most notably Caddisflies (1981), which received the United Fly Tyers' Book of the Year Award, and well over 100 articles. His book The Dry Fly-New Angles received the 1990 United Fly Tyers' Book of the Year Award. As a researcher, he used a very scientific method to look at fishing by approaching fly design and tying by first studying the underwater behaviors of trout and then designing flies that would elicit feeding activity. He revolutionized the way anglers tye and fish the caddis. One might say he was a student of the trout and the trout were students of his flies.

LaFontaine's Legacy is a posthumous collection of Gary's flies that were previously unpublished. In the months before his death, Gary enlisted the help of friends, Al and Gretchen Beatty, who themselves are well renowned in the fly tying world, to help document the final chapter of his life's work. It was his wish that his final patterns be published and this book is just what he had wished for.

The Beattys have given us 26 of Gary's last patterns. Each pattern is illustrated with superb full-color photographs and easy to follow tying instructions that show each step of the tying process. Each chapter is dedicated to an individual fly and the text is peppered with personal stories about Gary's tying and angling life. The step-by-step instructions are terrific and the stories bring Gary back to us.

This is an important and wonderful book that is one of the first volumes in the new Fly Tyer Library series of books. LaFontaine's Legacy is a valuable resource for all fly tyers and students of the art. It provides the final chapter in Gary LaFontaine's illustrious fly tying career and is important work on American fly tying history and technique.

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