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Midge Magic - Don Holbrook & Ed Koch

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton

Fishing - and its literature - certainly throws-up some interesting characters. From cranks to crackpots to original thinkers. The main author of Midge Magic, Don Holbrook, is a racing certainty for the award of fly fishing crackpot of the year. I write this in the kindest possible way. His obsession with the midge makes an interesting comparison with Halford's obsession with the dry fly. Midge Magic is a real 'anorak's' book and Don Holbrook is obsessed with midges to the extent of fishing virtually no other flies. He is a true obsessive with a mad but admirable obsession.

But don't let these comment put you off reading this book. It is an excellent collaboration between Holbrook and Ed Koch who wrote the preface and parts of chapters two (Matching the Midge), 11 (Peacock Patterns) and 13 (Elk River 32s). The book is thoroughly practical and - yes - readable with tying instructions and clear photos for each and every fly.

There are copious quantities of photographs - 300 according to the dust wrapper - of both naturals and immitations. Holbrook ties flies in different shades of colours, some are so subtle as to be barely noticeable in even high quality photos and reproduction. There are pages listing thread colours and shade numbers for cotton embroidery floss and sewing threads - his main tying materials. Holbrook is a fan of craft, sewing and needlework shops for buying glass beads and threads etc. Members of my local fly tying group do this as well and some of us are getting quite well known!

How many fly tiers are prepared to have a go at tying on size 32 hooks - as in chapter 13, Elk River 32s - I am not sure, but the full tying instructions are here. Although small - sorry, tiny - hooks are used, many of the patterns are simple to tie.

Stillwater fishermen have been fishing midges for years but there are fewer river anglers fishing midge patterns on a regular basis. Reading this book should convince many river fishermen to take a new look at midges, given that 'Trout love midges. They eat them year-round.'. The patterns and techniques here are based on 25 years of streamside research.

The truly amazing hatch chart for midges in central Pennsylvania for every week of the year, with accompanying photos of the relevant flies, is based on Holbrook's notes of many year's fishing. This would have silenced poor old Halford if he was still around. You have got to be obsessed to record and tabulate such detail. The world of fly fishing would be a poorer place without practitioners such as Don Holbrook who is worthy of our admiration.

Midge Magic by Don Holbrook & Ed Koch. Published in hardback by Stackpole Books at US $29.95. 109 pages.

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