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Tying Flies with CDC, The Fisherman's Miracle Feather by Leon Links

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton

I must start this review with a serious warning: only buy or unpack it, if buying by mail order, when you can sit down and read it all. I found that once I started reading it, it was almost impossible to put it down. It is a book to read all the way through and then go back over, page by page, studying in detail and selecting the flies you want to tie. And you will want to tie many of the flies in this book.

Much of the research into the history of the use of CDC feathers for fly tying was done by Marc Petitjean, a Frenchman who now lives and works in Switzerland. His research forms a very interesting part of the book. I remember seeing Marc Petitjean tying nymphs using CDC some years ago at the Chatsworth Angling Fair. In fact it must have been in the early 1990s when he was just starting to tie them. I must admit I did not understand why he was using CDC feathers for sub-surface flies as I though that they were used only for dry flies because of their inherent ability to float so well. It was a while before I realised that it was their mobility and resistance to absorbing water - so helping the fibres to stay mobile longer - that were the reasons for using them to tie nymphs: 'in a sub-surface pattern, the slightest movement in the water causes CDC fibres to wave seductively and imitate the natural insect's own movements.'

If the concept of tying nymphs with CDC feathers seems alien, what are about using them for streamers, salmon and steelhead flies, and even pike flies? They are all here. There are wonderful looking flies from many European countries, the United States and Japan. They all make full use of the main characteristics of CDC feathers: their softness, translucency and inherent buoyancy.

Leon Links stresses the importance of size and profile of flies, rather than variations in colour, which is perhaps a good thing as CDC feathers are not that easy to dye. And although you will need to use some dyed feathers to tie some of the patterns in the book, I would recommend that whenever possible you harvest your own feathers. Either shoot your own ducks or if you don't shoot yourself, get them from a friend that does or buy a brace or two from a local shoot. This way you will know that you have got clean, fresh feathers from wild birds. If you want to die your own feathers, be warned that it can take at least two weeks. Perhaps it is better to buy them ready dyed.

The chapter on fishing CDC flies stresses the importance of finesse when casting. To add to that finesse I can't help thinking that furled leaders would be better than the braided leaders that Links recommends. It would seem that CDC flies frighten fish less with their softer profiles and feel in the fish's mouth.

The various sections on tying techniques show you how to use CDC as dubbing, twisting feathers for bodies and how to choose the right feathers for different purposes.

Does this book have any shortcomings? I am afraid the answer is yes in that I don't think its designers are fishermen or fly tiers. Unfortunately recipes for tying many of the flies and just one photo appear on one page and the rest of the instructions on the next page or pages. Not all the flies for which there are dressings are illustrated and some are illustrated but there are no tying instructions or recipes - the F Bug is a good example. These omissions are frustrating and disappointing. But don't be put-off buying this book!

This is a book to make any thinking fishermen re-appraise their complete approach to fly fishing. It is a stunning and inspiring book and I could quite happily convert to fishing all CDC-only flies or mostly CDC with one or two other (mostly natural) materials. I will have to draw-up a new winter fly tying schedule. John Roberts writes in his Foreword that Leon Links included only a proportion of the material he gathered in this book. I look forward to the publication of a revised and extended version that will correct the faults as well as providing more information on CDC feathers and flies.

Tying Flies with CDC, The Fisherman's Miracle Feather by Leon Links. Published in hardback by Merlin Unwin. 158 pages.

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