Rare and Unusual Vol 1

Rare and Unusual v2

Paul Schmookler and Ingrid Sils - Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials volumes I and II

Complete Sportsman
Volume I ISBN 1-886961-01-8
Volume II ISBN 1-886961-02-6

There are books which come once in a generation; redefining their genre and leaving the reader breathless in their wake. Rare and Unusual is not such a book. Books like this come once a century.

Rare and Unusual is Kelson brought into the twentieth century, the salmon fly unbound, a lush excess of a volume which defies criticism and casts its subject in a new light. Despite its ugly duckling of a title, Schmookler and Sils book has made an enormous impact in the fly tying world. The ripples are still spreading, and every work that has been published on the subject since seems to have a little of Rare and Unusual in it.

So what is unusual about this book apart from its price and its sheer size? Just the most lavish treatment the artificial fly has ever seen. This is the salmon (and the trout) fly as art, showcased in an endless variety of ravishing photographs that one friend described as almost being better than sex. We’re still counselling her. Each enormous double page spread begins with a litho of the relevant bird on the left, and flies tied using its plumage spill across the right. The photography is outstanding, the compositions extraordinary, and the flies jump off the page and demand your attention.

There are wonderful birds here; the Resplendent Quetzal and the Spangled Cotinga, birds that make the Macaw look tawdry and which put the Kingfisher in the shade. The Victorians almost hunted their like to extinction in the pursuit of ever more fantastic millinery, and fly tiers share the responsibility, but looking at the antique flies scattered among their modern relatives, I can understand why men like Traherne were distracted by the possibilities of such exotic plumage.

Rare and Unusual shows the fly, and the salmon fly in particular, in a way it has never been seen before. Judith Dunham’s very attractive The Art of the Salmon Fly pales by comparison. If you have any interest in flies, art, photography, or fine books, mortgage the kids and buy this work.

Both volumes are out of print and have become very collectible.