It’s probably not something I should admit, given that I do myself put pen to paper, but in truth I’m not much of a reader, particularly of non-fiction. Aside from my favourites by the totally brilliant John Gierach (Trout Bum, Sex Death and Flyfishing, No Shortage of Good Days), these days I rarely find myself lost in pages. Lost in paperwork maybe, such is the life of a self employed outdoorsman.
That said, there is a book which comes with me pretty much everywhere I go, and has become as important a part of my teaching armoury as my own rods, reels and flies. Matching The Hatch By Peter Lapsley and Cyril Bennett is a tiny little book by fly fishing standards – under a hundred pages – and incredibly inexpensive at less than £10. It’s size and price tag belie the book’s content however, and I really do believe that a new or intermediate angler MUST own a copy. I’ll explain why……
Matching the Hatch is a book designed to help you do exactly that – to learn more about the bugs that trout feed on, what they look like and how best to imitate them. In many ways this is the great riddle of fly fishing, as the finest caster on the planet will be hard pressed to catch a fish if they’re using totally the wrong fly.
There’s no shortage of books about the bugs we might find while fly fishing. In fact there are a great many, and most of them will have far more detail than Matching The Hatch, but what Lapsley and Bennett managed which no other author has yet is to get All the vital information in to one concise little booklet.
The book is split in to two sections: Matching the Hatch, and Making an Informed Decision. The first section focuses solely on being able to identify the most common flies found in both still waters and rivers in the UK, giving the ready high quality colour images of the natural insects during different stages of their metamorphosis, as well as a few suggestions as to well known imitations which the angler may wish to use.
Below these images is a hatch calendar to advise the angler which time of year to expect the particular fly, as well as a life-size silhouette, an indicator of whether the bugs would be found in still or running water, and a map of the UK advising on the distribution of the bug in question. All vital information, and so perfectly simply presented.
Below this chart is a small amount of supporting text, no more than a few hundred words, mostly of common (or not-so-common) information on the habitat and life cycle of each food item, as well as advice on other imitations which may be appropriate. All the information that the fly angler needs to identify their insect, work out when and where they might appear and how to imitate the natural is here, and not an ounce more – this is the beauty of Matching the Hatch.
A more dedicated entomologist might find fault that there aren’t more insects in here, and true enough there are only a few dozen of the thousands one might find in a British river or lake, but you can rest assured the all the vital ones are in here, and a few more besides. My feeling is that the vast majority of bugs which don’t feature in Matching the Hatch probably don’t need to be there anyway.
The second section of Matching the Hatch is to me the most important. Again, Lapsley and Bennett manage to squeeze so much information, knowledge and wisdom in to such concise prose. The life-cycle diagrams and text are brilliantly minimal, with only the information that a fly angler really needs in practise, again with only the most vital food-groups included.
The section on reading rises is perfect. This is something I discuss at length while out with clients, as so much can be assumed about a trout’s chosen food source from just the rise. Being able to read rises quickly and accurately really will enable you to catch more fish, and everything you need to know about each type of rise form can be found in Matching the Hatch.
The book concludes with two double page spreads – nice simple hatch charts for both rivers and stillwaters. An angler can use these to work out what bugs they might expect to encounter on their water of choice, before they even leave the house! Each insect also has a page reference, so the angler can check back and make sure they fully understand the natural bugs which they’re likely to imitate.
All in all, Matching the Hatch is a very simple, neat concise book which achieves the near-impossible – breaking down hatches of billions of different sizes, shapes, colours and varieties of trout food in to bitesize chunks. The kindest I could be is to say that Matching the Hatch really is a totally digestible reference. If you’re looking for a sprawling entomological encyclopaedia then you won’t be satisfied by these 96 pages at all. If you’re looking for a quick, simple and straightforward reference to help you identify bugs, imitations and rise forms then this really is perfect.
EVERY fly angler in the UK should own this book!