Column: Revisiting The Gilly, a B.C. fly-fishing classic

Great Outdoors by James Murray

The other day I was in a local used book store and happened to pick up a copy of The Gilly – A Flyfisher’s Guide, compiled and edited by Alf Davy, and published by Frank Amato Publications.

Its pages were rather warn and looked as if it had been read many, many times.

I suppose if I had to recommend one and only one fishing book, it would have to be The Gilly, which came out in 1985 and went through 17 printings. The Gilly was co-authored by 12 of the best angling authorities in the province and focuses mostly on fishing B.C.’s Interior lakes. It is probably the best all-round sources of information there is on fishing both lakes and streams in the Interior.

Like a lot of fly-fishing books, the first few chapters focus on the basics of fly fishing – gear and the basics of fly casting – as well as where on a lake to fish and what flies to use. Rods, reels, lines, leaders and knots are all also covered in detail, as well as lake ecology and entomology, which are discussed in a straightforward manner using language that even a novice angler can understand.

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Subsequent chapters focus on specific food sources, insect life cycles, imitation fly patterns and fly pattern presentation. The book covers a good variety of imitation fly patterns that were originally designed to fish Interior lakes and streams.

Chironomid pupae pattern fishing is discussed in detail by Jim Crawford, Tim Tullis and Alf Davy in separate chapters. Mayfly fishing is covered by entomologist and fly fishing guru Brian Chan. Larger food sources such as dragonflies, caddis flies and leeches are also discussed in detail. There is even a chapter on the water boatman. Fishing freshwater shrimp as a food source for trout is covered by Doug Porter.

There are several chapters on river and stream fishing including a couple on the basics of both wet and dry fly steelhead fishing. Barry Thornton writes about taking salmon on the fly, while Tom Murray has a chapter on fishing sea-run cutthroat.

Although The Gilly has been described as a meat and potatoes sort of fly fishing book, it is also the kind of book that can be read over and over. It is an enjoyable read for its stories and an excellent resource for its technical advice. The information contained within its pages can certainly turn a so-so day on the waters into a totally successful fishing trip.

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