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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment January 17, 2018

1/9/2018 12:56:00 PM
Fly-tyer represents Sisters in new book
By Emily Woodworth

In early January, "America's Favorite Flies" hit the presses. It is a thick volume full of flyfishing flies and the personal stories of the anglers who have used them. Featured among the cadre of contributors is Sisters' own Sherry Steele, a flyfisher, tyer and teacher, and a familiar face to anyone who knows the fishing scene in the Northwest.

Steele's involvement with the book started with an email.

"It was from John Bryan, the chief editor. I'd never met him, but he was reaching out for help getting the word out to all the really high-end tyers to see if they wanted to contribute," said Steele.

She agreed to canvass at some conferences, and started considering her own contribution.

Based on the title, Steele initially assumed that the volume would feature the most popular flies used in American flyfishing. "But I realized later it was actually the one you liked the best. As in, 'you're an American and this is your favorite fly,'" she said.

With the idea of her own favorite fly in mind, Steele quickly decided what her addition would be: the Whychus Canyon steelhead fly.

Steele first developed this fly especially for the Deschutes Land Trust when they were trying to close their deal on the Whychus Canyon Preserve, dedicated on June 11, 2011. They needed one last push to raise funds.

"I came up with a fly that used feather material that would look like the rocks of the canyon plus the Land Trust colors and it took off from there," explained Steele.

She thought it would make a great addition, representing a unique area within Central Oregon to the rest of the fly fishing world.

Each contributor was asked for a picture of their favorite fly, along with an explanation of how it became their favorite, why, where they had used it, when they had used it and, of course, the results of their expeditions. In addition, the book includes various guest essays and artwork from two dozen artists.

The mission of "America's Favorite Flies" is close to the heart of each of the 224 contributing anglers. Because everyone provided their flies and stories pro bono, all proceeds will benefit the James River Association and the Native Fish Society. The former is a society committed to restoring one of America's most historic rivers, the James, in Virginia, to full health (it was declared one of the most polluted rivers in America in 1975), while the latter works to cultivate self-sustaining wild, native fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to Steele and others in the Northwest's rich fly fisher societies, the book includes such notable contributors as President Jimmy Carter, rock star Huey Lewis, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and author Tom McGuane, alongside legends of the fishing community like Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh and Craig Matthews of Blue Ribbon Flies. It is dedicated to Norman Maclean, the author of "A River Runs Through It," which spawned a movie of the same title directed by Robert Redford, and brought great attention to the sport of fly fishing. Maclean's children also contributed to the book.

"Some of the people I first mentioned this project to at conferences waved it off as 'just another book,' not realizing what it was really going to be," said Steele. "But this is going to really be something, and I think some people might regret not taking the opportunity."

The book itself is made to be an artifact, meant to balance aesthetics with information. The creators hope it will function as a conglomeration of fly fishing wisdom for generations of future fly fishers. "America's Favorite Flies" weighs in at seven pounds, measuring nine by 12 inches with 656 full-color pages of flies and personal stories relating why each fly, in particular, made the cut for the contributor.

It runs $145 and is available now at For more information about the James River Association see To learn more about the efforts of the Native Fish Society in our area, and to find ways to get involved, visit

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