50 Essential Patterns from Local Experts
By Kevin Howell
Book Review by Mike Watts
I have known Kevin Howell for almost forty years and impatiently waited for his new book to come off the press. He had told me he was memorializing some of the old “Smoky Mountain” fly patterns we had tied, fished, and forgotten about from years ago and some of his “special” personal patterns.
In the early 80’s, several of us tried to capture historical information on local fly patterns, but without computers, the facts were all word of mouth and 3rd hand information. Kevin and I laughed about the fact that we were close on the origins of some fly patterns and off on most of the others. I didn’t mind being corrected and I think it adds a nostalgic flare to a fly pattern when a person learns its origins. I still fish many of the patterns discussed in his book and they were effective years ago and still are now.
Kevin begins with an Introduction to the Smokies and a discussion of the watershed there. It doesn’t take long for a reader to realize he is passionate about the Smokies and the various fly patterns. He’s careful not to name some of the streams discussed in the book due to the popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains and the National Park. I can appreciate him not wanting to overload a fragile ecosystem.
As noted in the Introduction, his purpose in writing the book was to “expose tiers and anglers outside of the region to some new patterns that they might have never heard of or seen, as well as some of the historical flies of the region.” He did a good job accomplishing this.
The first fly in the book, the Adams Variant, has been one of my favorite Smoky Mountain dry fly patterns over four decades. He mentions that “the Adams Variant is attributed to Fred Hall, from Bryson City, North Carolina. However, it is fairly common belief that Fred’s wife, Arlene, herself a world-renowned tier, actually created the fly.” The fly has a lot of steps and Kevin does a wonderful job explaining them along with some tips and tricks. Not every fly in the book is as complicated or has as many steps.
As with each fly, Kevin discusses some historical significance or notation, explains the pattern fly recipe, and shows a photo of the completed fly. He then relates his personal fishing experiences with each pattern as to when he fishes it, his successes, and something interesting that makes each fly unique and “fishy.”
The book is written in a way that is easy to read and should become a great reference book for any fly tier and trout fisherman, not just for the great Smoky Mountain region but everywhere. Kevin truly captures the essence of the many great Smoky Mountains fly patterns.
Kevin’s book can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the riversandfeathers book link below.