Conejo Valley Fly Fishers

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Gary A. Borger, Presentation

Tomorrow River Press, 1995. Pp. 319. $34.95. ISBN 0-9628392-5-6.

Reviewed by Dave Guinee (Used with permission)

In this, his fourth book, Gary Borger sets himself to an impressive task -- describing presentation, which he defines as "the culmination of everything you are and everything you know and understand about the whole world of fly fishing." (15) Before I begin to evaluate his success, let me add the hasty disclaimer that I am in no position to judge the accuracy and quality of many, if not most, of B's suggestions on angling strategy. As a novice fisherman, I don't have the experience. Hopefully this review will enable you to make a more informed decision about whether Presentation will fit your needs.

The book is divided into three parts. Section One, "The Predator/Prey Relationship" contains chapters on "The Fish as Prey", "Why Fish Are Where Fish Are", "The Way Fish Feed", "What Fish Eat", and "The Angler As Predator". Section Two, "Equipment and Line Handling", contains more specific information on how to present the fly to the fish, with chapters titled "Equipment is the Only Thing" and "Line Handling". Finally, in Section Three, "Angling Tactics", B. presents "The Foundation Strategies" and "The Minor Tactics". There is also an annotated bibliography and an excellent index.

"The Predator/Prey Relationship" contains a great deal of useful information about the senses and behavior of trout, all of which leads toward B's cardinal rules of fly fishing. Chapter One discusses in good detail what trout can see, hear, and feel in the water. I wish that certain angling friends of mine would read this chapter before crashing through the water near me again! In "Why Fish Are Where Fish Are" B. discusses the ergonomics of feeding and how to find where trout hold. Here he explains in greater detail the Prime Lies, Feeding Lies, and Sheltering Lies which are familiar to those who have seen his videos. B. also discusses how to find fish in lakes.

In Chapter Three, "The Way Fish Feed" B. discusses opportunistic and selective feeding. He presents interesting material on stream drift, "the downstream transport of aquatic or terrestrial organisms by the currents" (83), characteristics for successful fly selection for opportunistic periods, understanding selectivity, and reading rise forms in both streams and lakes.

"What Fish Eat" presents summaries of the life cycles and attributes of the major food organisms. Obviously B. can not, in a 37 page chapter, present anything near complete information on all of these food sources, but he has managed to present a great deal of useful information. B gives details intended to help you fish imitations of the naturals rather than pinpoint their taxonomy. At my skill level, the former is far more useful. But for those interested in more specific details, B. gives a good bibliography of other works on prey organisms on p. 106. Throughout the chapter B. discusses flies to imitate the various food organisms. Not surprisingly, many of his favorite flies are those described in his Designing Trout Flies (Tomorrow River Press, 1991). Those who enjoyed the earlier book will find that B. has, naturally, made some changes in materials in the last few years. The chapter concludes with fly tying tips based on the color perception of trout.

"The Angler as Predator" contains what I believe to be the most important information in the book and what I take to be the central tenets of B's angling philosophy. The central message of the chapter is this: if you want to catch big fish, you have to practice by treating small fish as if they were big ones. This is only common sense, but it isn't common knowledge. The chapter is filled with good information on stalking, sighting, and playing big fish -- or, according to the cardinal rule, any fish.

The chapter on equipment is quite good. Of particular interest to me is the discussion of leader design. B. challenges the notion that a leader will hinge if stepped down by more than .002" at a time. He presents his "Unibody Leader" concept, where you essentially work with a two-piece butt/step-down section and a compound tippet. I have experimented with the system and am quite pleased with the results. One of my few quibbles with the book is that, in this chapter, the reader may grow somewhat tired of being reminded of the various products B. has developed. It's a minor complaint, but statements like, "Lines such as the ones I designed for McKenzie Flies, that have a textured surface, shoot farther, fly better, and do not flash in the sun like smootly finished lines," may leave a bad taste in your mouth, even if the information is true. To conclude the chapter B. discusses the knots used in fly fishing.

The chapter on "Line Handling" presents detailed descriptions of the process of casting, mending, and handling the line. B. recommends a pantomime method for learning to cast, much like that Mel Krieger uses to teach the Double Haul on his video The Essence of Fly Casting. There is a wealth of clearly explained information on straight-line casts, curve casts, pile casts -- you name it. As a relative beginner to fly fishing, I'm finding a great deal to practice in this chapter.

Section Three, "Angling Tactics" is a pleasure to read. B. breaks down his strategic tips into 7 foundation strategies and nineteen "minor tactics" which have more limited application, but, B. claims, can be very important under the right conditions. Throughout these last chapters B. presents illustrative anecdotes from his own fishing experience. These are fun to read and well-written.

Scattered throughout the volume are "P.S" (Presentation Strategy) tips. These useful summaries and tips are visually set off from the body text, much like the tying tips in Designing Trout Flies. Jason Borger's beautiful illustrations add considerably to the book's visual appeal, and there are some very nice color photographs. Nancy Borger, too, should be congratulated for a fine job of desktop publishing. The book is extremely well laid out, pleasing to the eye, and well edited. I noticed only a few typographical errors throughout the book. The volume is nicely bound and should last well.

\B's writing is at its best here. In his earlier works B's prose occasionally grates on the ear, particularly when he waxes poetic. I have no such criticisms here. In Presentation the writing is uniformly clear, concise, intelligent, and entertaining. The book is an impressive accomplishment, and I heartily recommend it.


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