or, perhaps Olive the Woolly Blogger...

Month: October 2010

Reader feedback: Olive the woolly bugger books

I just received this nice note from a parent who bought all three Olive fly fishing books for his son:

“My soon-to-be 5 year-old has read your first 3 books. He’s my die hard fishing buddy. I knew he’d like them because woolly buggers were already his favorite fly (although Olive doesn’t have any flash like his favorite).

He caught a fish on the first fly he tied all by himself last month. I hope he’s hooked for life, because every man needs a good fishing buddy. Thanks for feeding his passion.”

I love hearing from from happy readers. If you’ve read the Olive books, or your kids have, please drop me a note- I’ll send your fishy kid an autographed book mark!  You can contact me HERE.

Thanks for reading- join Olive on Facebook!

Opinions of Olive.

We all know that opinions, no matter the topic, are subjective. Book reviews are simply opinions of one or more persons and therefore prone to that same subjectivity. However, when a consensus is reached, that subjectivity tends to become something you can trust. I’m happy to report that to date, I’ve not received a bad review for Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and/or Olive Goes for a Wild Ride.

There are lots of reviews over on Amazon.com, but let’s be honest: many (though not all) of those reviews are from people I know who did me the favor of posting their reviews to drive traffic in that direction. While certainly I appreciate their time and support, any savvy person knows that these types of reviews are solicited. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the reviewers are being objective and honest. By the way, I like what’s been said about Olive on Amazon! 😉

More valuable perhaps are reviews by people with whom I have no previous relationship. They don’t know me from the next stranger who asks them to review a book, so they are going to be objective in their assessment of my work.  As they should be–it’s their job to give their honest feedback.

The following are excerpts from previous reviews, by people I do not know, of the Olive books. You can find some the full reviews on the REVIEWS page of the Olive website.

“The child in your life will love these fun stories where flies come to life and fight just as hard as anglers for that feisty wild trout.” Trout magazine, Spring 2008

“They’re delightful, they’re entertaining, and they contain an important message for kids: respect our resources. Kirk Werner’s two new books arrived in the mail last week and we were simply amazed by the talent they display…beautifully illustrated and written, they show great imagination and real knack for storytelling.” Midcurrent, January 30, 2008

“Werner supplies plenty of fly-fishing vocabulary and techniques to Olive and her readers, but always with joy and wonder. By presenting Olive’s lessons in a visually charming manner and easy-to-understand language, Werner latches onto children’s imaginations, and carries them into a new and exciting world. Both parents and children will enjoy these books.” Native Fish Society, December 2007

“…Playing off goofy fly names–like zonker, yellow sally, and gold-ribbed hare’s ear–author and angler Kirk Werner (’85 Comm.) creates a world of flies-in-training whose only goal is to catch fish. The bright illustrations and lively adventures appeal to young readers, while they learn about the tricks and techniques of flyfishing.” Washington State Magazine, Winter 2009

“There are many ways to pass along the love of the outdoors and one is this wonderful series of children’s books by Kirk Werner...Whether you have a family lured by the appeal of flyfishing or not, this series of books will get young readers hooked on the outdoors and reading…These books are truly unique in that they introduce young readers to the sport of flyfishing in an entertaining way. As somebody with no experience or interest in flyfishing, I found these books fun to read, educational, and entertaining. The bright and colorful illustrations are amazing and so much fun to view.” Examiner.com, July 15, 2009

“The story is a delight and clearly explains what fishing flies are and how they are used for different kinds of fishing. The illustrations are amusing while capturing the personalities of the different flies. Werner is commended for creating a great book for children to learn about fly fishing. I learned a lot and I know young fisherpeople will also.” MyShelf.com, February 2008

“Kirk Werner has found a niche in juvenile literature and filled nicely. As in any good story for kids, there is a moral; persevere and you will succeed. What the author does, however, goes well beyond telling a simple tale with a moral. He takes the concept of catch and release fly fishing and turns it into a story that children and parents/grandparents will enjoy reading together. The illustrations are beautiful and will engage youngsters in the story. Werner gets his message about the joy of catching fish and releasing them so they can be caught again by others across very well.” TCM Reviews, March 2008

“Is there a more noble and worthy endeavor in this world than inspiring kids to read, and at the same time, tuning them into the world of fly fishing? That’s what author Kirk Werner is doing with his catchy series of books for young readers based on his “Olive the Little Woolly Bugger” character. Wonderfully illustrated and smartly written, these three books offer a keen balance of entertainment and educational value (they were a hit with my 9 year-old son). Given the intense interest in fostering interest in fly fishing among kids, this series is certainly work including in a shop’s book section.” Angling Trade, December 2009

All three books were also given some very nice coverage on page 62 of Fly Fusion magazine (volume 7 issue 2, Spring 2010).

So, the question is, can you trust the reviews of all these people?  It’s my opinion that you can.

Fly fishing books for kids

As popular as fly fishing is as an adult activity, it seems that relatively few kids are involved in the sport at an early age.  It may be that the child in question is simply too young, or that the parent thinks the child may not be ready for it. Whatever the case may be, the first step in getting kids ready for fly fishing is creating an interest, and creating that interest happens well before a child visits a stream or lake with fly rod in hand.

Fly fishing is a reflection of life in that regard.  Afterall, the young child who says they want to be a firefighter when they grow up doesn’t come to this conclusion by visiting the scene of a burning building! So where do kids get the enthusiasm for things they want to do?  TV no doubt factors in. Video games also have a great influence on kids, all too often unfortunately. Certainly watching adults and parents whom they idolize also fuels the creativity of children.  Books also come to mind.

Kids have tremendous imaginations: by reading books about topics that interest them children often imagine themselves involved in those stories, going on the same adventures as the characters in the books. If there were a book with engaging characters that go on fly fishing adventures, it wouldn’t take a stretch of the adult imagination to see that kids would identify with those characters, go along on the fly fishing adventures, and come away with an excitement and desire to create similar adventures of their own.

Enter Olive, the woolly bugger. Olive is the central character in a series of children’s books that are intended as a primer to get kids interested in fishing (specifically, fly fishing). In the fist book, Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive is just like the child who has never fished before.  She goes off to Camp Tightloops to learn what it takes to become a fishing fly (and while there she learns some life lessons that go well beyond fly fishing). After she has been taught the basics of fly fishing, Olive gets her first chance to take what she has learned and try out her knowledge for the first time in Olive and The Big Stream. In this second book, not every fly catches a fish, just as not every child will catch a fish on their first outing. However, everyone witnesses the excitement that accompanies the action when a trout is finally caught, and released! In the third book, Olive Goes for a Wild Ride, Olive (and her readers) overcome further obstacles and continue their education about stream habitat, insect life and all that makes the great outdoors so great! Kids will read the adventures of Olive and imagine themselves along for every step of the journey. They’ll come away having learned something and having had a lot of fun in the process.

If you have a child who already enjoys fishing, it’s a safe bet they’ll enjoy reading the Olive fly fishing series. If you think your child is too young to actually join you on a fly fishing adventure, it’s not too soon to get them thinking about the day when they will be ready to join you.  Until that day, Olive will take your child on fly fishing adventures right now.

Your child will be hooked on fly fishing with the help of Olive the woolly bugger, and if you’re an angler, these are books you’ll actually look forward to reading with your children.

The real man behind Olive the Woolly Bugger.

Mr. Russell Blessing with one of his many Woolly Buggers

As author of Olive the Woolly Bugger, I can take credit for having created the character and the stories in my books, but the person truly responsible was a man by the name of Russell Blessing.

Not long ago I received an email from someone whose name I didn’t recognize: Fred Blessing.  The message subject was “Woolly Bugger”, so obviously I opened it with great curiosity. Fred began by saying that he had recently come across my kids’ books about Olive the Woolly Bugger. He then introduced himself as the son of the late Russell Blessing, creator of the Woolly Bugger fly.  I was familiar with who Russ Blessing was, for obvious reasons (you don’t launch a series of books based on a Woolly Bugger without doing a little research first). News of Russ’s death in October 2009 spread through the fly fishing world, but Russ Blessing wasn’t what most would consider a household name to everyone who fly fishes. I would soon learn that Russ’s relative anonymity was no accident.

Fred went on to tell me that his father was a very humble man and not in any way was he ever interested in claiming fame for the fly that had gained such notoriety in the fly fishing world:  “He would never tell anyone about it, and if they would mention it while coming across a fellow fisherman he would simply play it off and would never take claim to it being his fly.”  The mark of a truly humble man indeed.

Fred had written a heartfelt tribute to his father, hoping to have it published in Russ’s honor before he died. Sadly that didn’t happen and Russ passed away after a long battle with cancer. According to Fred, his wife “graciously read my tribute to my father the night he passed away, so for that I’m grateful that he at least got to hear it. I would however like to share it with the world, letting fellow fly fishers know what kind of person my father really was.”  Fred then added, “I do think you will enjoy the tribute and I would appreciate anything you can do to help my tribute to go public.” Fred also sent me this photo of he and Russ and Russ’s best friend and fishing companion, Werner “Dutch” Fetter. It’s always nice to be able to put a face with a name in this day of often impersonal electronic correspondence.

“Dutch” Fetter, Fred Blessing and Russ Blessing (2006)

When I read Fred’s tribute to his father I was touched.  I decided immediately that I could blog about it, and reach out to other bloggers and ask that they also blog about it, but let’s be honest:  How many people actually read all the fly fishing blogs out there?  Not to detract from the many excellent blogs, but my other blog, the Unaccomplished Angler, has a limited readership.  This blog has an even more limited readership. I felt that Fred’s tribute to his father deserved a more traditional place of honor, so I fired off an email to Joe Healy, a contact I had recently established at Fly Rod & Reel magazine. Joe was very receptive and after a series of back and forth emails, it was decided that I would write a brief intro and conduct a Q & A interview with Fred Blessing to share some information about his father.

My role in all this was really nothing more than that of intermediary, but it was a real honor to help the Blessing family get the word out about who Russ really was: beyond just being the man behind what has become arguably the most famous fly pattern in the world. I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Fred Blessing for reaching out to me with your story and for sharing so much about your father. Thank you to Joe Healy for your willingness to honor Russ’s legacy with some widespread coverage. And thank you to Russ Blessing for the woolly bugger: the value of your creation reaches far beyond my little series of books, but without the woolly bugger there would be no Olive.

To read the interview with Fred Blessing and Fred’s tribute to his father on the website of Fly Rod & Reel, please click HERE.

To read the Q&A with Fred Blessing and his tribute to his father on the website of Fly Rod & Reel, please click HERE.  EDIT: Since Fly Rod & Reel went out of business in 2017, the link to the article about Russ Blessing is no longer functional. In an attempt to preserve the content, I have copied and pasted it here:


Q: Your father, Russ Blessing, is credited with having invented the Woolly Bugger. How and when did he arrive at this invention?

A: When he created the fly in 1967, he wasn’t an avid fly tier like he was in his later years. He actually created it for smallmouth bass. He wanted to create something similar to the Dobsonfly larvae. He later added a marabou tail, which created the Woolly Bugger.

Q: How different was the first Woolly Bugger than what we typically see today?

A: There are so many different patterns and colors today, but to me the original Woolly Bugger had olive chenille body, black hackle and marabou tail. Dad always believed that the more movement in the water from the hackle and tail the better. His Buggers always looked that way.

Q: Woolly Bugger is a curious name. Can you tell us how Russ came to call it that?

A: (Grin) My sister Julie named it when she was 7. She saw the fly and said, “ It looks like a Woolly Bugger.”

Q: The Woolly Bugger has become very widely known, well beyond the boundaries of North America. How was your father able to so effectively promote the pattern?

A: In August 1967, Dad was fishing the Little Lehigh. Barry Beck was fishing downstream and wasn’t having any luck, like everyone else that day. Dad landed a nice trout, then another. Barry approached him out of curiosity and Dad gave him a Woolly Bugger to try. Barry started catching trout. They later became friends and Barry did an article on the fly in 1984. It became well known after that. Dad never wanted to promote the fly; he just wanted to catch fish. He was very humble about his creation.

Q: The Woolly Bugger is known to be very effective on a wide variety of gamefish. What species did your father most often fish for?

A: Early on he fished a lot for smallmouth bass; he just loved to fish. Even in his younger years, he would fish with bait. Once he got more involved with fly fishing and tying flies, he then really started getting into fishing for trout.

Q: Where was his favorite fishing destination?

A: He had a few favorite spots. One was only a few miles from his home, Manada Creek outside of Harrisburg, PA. He would even fish there in the winter if weather permitted, on the regulated sections. His favorite had to be spending time in upstate PA fishing with his friend Dutch. Sorry, I wont give that location away (grin). Dad pretty much stayed local.

Q: The legacy of the Woolly Bugger will likely last as long as there are fish to be caught. What would your late father most like to be remembered for?

A: First, that he was a dedicated family man, a man of strong faith, someone who was generous, honest…I could go on and on. That’s why we all miss him so much. He never wanted recognition for inventing the Woolly Bugger—he was just happy he created something that could give a fly fisherman an opportunity to catch some fish. Second, that he was a pretty darn good fly fisherman.


Russ Blessing-tied Woolly Buggers sent to me by Fred Blessing- thanks, Fred!

The ultimate fly rod for kids?

Fly Rod Review: Pygmy Glass 5’6″ 4 Weight

I may have just found the perfect fly rod for kids. It’s called the Pygmy, and the name is indicative of its diminutive size.

At 5’6″ in length one may think that it’s too short to be effective at casting a fly line.  I’ll admit I was skeptical myself, until I strung up the little fiberglass beauty and spent some time lawn casting with it. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I was able to throw tight loops out to around 40 feet without altering my casting strike much at all.  All of my single handed fly rods are 9′ and longer: all are fast action rods made with late generation graphite so I’m no expert on fiberglass rods. That may make me the perfect type of person to review a glass rod – after all, I have no certain affinity (bias) for them.  My perception, be it right or wrong, about fiberglass rods is that they’re limp noodles that require a very slow casting stroke.  My first fly rod was glass, and I seem to recall it bending all the way to the cork grip. Well, the Pygmy is not your father’s glass rod.  As it’s builder, Stephen Vance says, “The pygmy is a glass rod with graphite roots.” Mr. Vance is the owner of Scandalous Sticks custom fly rods in Boise, Idaho.

The reason I didn’t water cast the Pygmy is because unfortunately this rod is not mine to keep. I’m donating it to an auction for Casting 4 A Cure and I didn’t want to take it out to a body of water and risk catching a fish with it!

To be perfectly accurate, the rod I tested is 5’7″ due to a fighting butt that adds an inch. That fighting butt may be more than just decoartive as fish in the range of 30 inches have been landed on the Pygmy, according to the Scandalous Sticks website. A fish that size is going to require a reel with a decent drag – you probably don’t want to palm agiant brown trout. For casting practice I tested the Pygmy using two different reels: My own Ross Evolution 1.5 and a Redington Drift 3/4 (also donated for the auction by the good folks at Redington).  The Ross is a perfect match for my 9 foot 4 weight rods but felt a little big for the Pygmy. At 3.7 ounces the Redington was a nice fit.  The balance point was about 3 inches behind the leading edge of the cork grip, so perhaps a bit further back than what textbook guidelines suggest. However, with such a short rod a reel would need to be nearly weightless in order to balance where a typical longer rod does.  This didn’t bother me one bit: the entire outfit is so light in the hands that the matter of a balance point was the furthest thing from my mind. As for aesthetics, the titanium Redington looks real sweet when attached to the nickel silver up-locking reel seat.

Being fiberglass, the rod does flex and the tip feels sensitive. I can see that presenting a dry fly with finesse would be easy and playing large fish would certainly be a thrill with this little beauty. But one must remember that while the rod is unusually small and feels delicate, it IS a 4 wt rod and up to tasks greater than the size of the rod might suggest.

The whole package is very classy to look at; the construction flawless: The 2-piece blank is a honey mustard yellow, with brown and black thread wraps; guides are stainless steel chrome; the reel seat is blonde Israeli olive wood; the grip is high grade Portuguese cork.   Each Pygmy is signed by Steve Vance and assigned a production number: this particular rod is numbered 0021.

Advantages of the Pygmy over a longer rod are many, given that it can still stand toe to toe with longer sticks in practical fishing situations:

  • Stringing up the rod is a snap because even a smaller person can thread the line through the tip guide without having to stand on a milk crate or lay the rod horizontal.
  • The Pygmy is very manageable when walking through doorways (or down a brush-lined trail).
  • When the wind blows, and it nearly always does when fly fishing, the short rod would be much less negatively affected than a “normal” length rod.
  • The Pygmy wouldn’t take up much room in a boat or float tube.

The above-mentioned points suggest that this would be a perfect rod for kids for the very fact that it is a very manageable size. The action would be good for teaching kids to let the rod load before commencing with their forward stroke, but it’s not so slow that a child’s impatience will cause problems.  The pygmy will also roll cast just fine to moderate distances, again making it a good option for younger anglers. However, once you get the Pygmy in your hands the last thing you’ll want to do is give it to your kid!

Since there are only 5 more Pygmy blanks available, one would be prudent to contact Scandalous Sticks and place their order today (they sell for $400). That may seem like a lot for a kid’s rod, but remember – you’re really buying this for yourself. Whether you choose to let your young angling partner use it is entirely up to you!

Stay tuned for more information about the Casting 4 A Cure auction that will feature this Pygmy, the Redington Drift reel and Rio Mainstream WF-4F flyline, and a host of other great stuff.

Olive and Oprah

A while ago I tried to find a way to contact the folks at the Oprah show to see about submitting Olive for consideration in Oprah’s Book Club List. I had visions of grandeur that Oprah herself would see the books, deem them awesome, have the author on her show, and give away a set of Olive the woolly bugger books to everyone in the audience. Olive would be an instant household name. Oprah has the power to make best sellers out of previously nobodies. Actually, I don’t even care about getting on Oprah’s show, but I would be tickled if my Olive books made Oprah’s Book List for Kids.

Unfortunately I never even got a reply when I submitted the contact form so I’m still a nobody. I wasn’t surprised. After all, Oprah doesn’t strike me as the type of person who would be particularly interested in fly fishing. But wait! Apparently she has actually tried casting a fly before!  Maybe there’s still hope for Olive to break through the fortress and get into Oprah’s hands.

Here is an entry on Field & Stream’s Honest Angler blog.

And Midcurrent also covered the story.

If anyone knows Oprah personally, please have her contact me. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for her call, which should come soon because this is her last season, afterall.

Reader reviews: Olive the Woolly Bugger series

I recently received a nice email from Aileen, mother of McKenzie, age 8.  Aileen happens to be the talent behind MK Flies and was one of two recent winners of my book giveaway contest. She and McKenzie received personalized copies of all three Olive books: Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride. Here’s what mom had to say:

Kirk, I was so excited when the “Olive the Woolly Bugger” series arrived.  My 8 year old daughter never finishes books she reads until she got a hold of the Olive books. If I may quote my daughter, McKenzie:  “It’s a really, really, really good book. I can’t stop reading them! It’s very fun.”

As a mother, I am thrilled to discover that my daughter actually loves to read…we just didn’t find the right books until now. Thank you so much.  She’s almost done with the second one, and will soon be reading the third.  When is the next book coming out?

Thanks, Aileen and McKenzie! I love to get feedback like this. To answer your question, Aileen, I’ve written two more books and hopefully the next adventures of Olive will be available before too long.

A very cute McKenzie gets hooked on Olive.

If you or your child has read and enjoyed the Olive books, please tell all your friends about them. The best form of advertising comes from word of mouth recommendations.

I’ll be posting more personal “reviews” on occasion, so if you know a child who is hooked on Olive, please send me a photo of them with a quick comment about the books and I’ll post it here on the blog for all to see.  You can contact me via email here.

Letters from kids.

One of the best things about being an author of children’s books is feedback I get from people who’ve seen my Olive the woolly bugger books.  Certainly I love to hear from parents and adults but the real rewards come when I hear from kids themselves. Recently I received a letter in the mail addressed to Olive the Woolly Bugger, from my new friend, Mariah:


Dear Kirk,

I just turned 10 August 25th. This year I am in 5th grade. It is so fun to fly fish. My favorite things to do are read, tie flies and fish. I have never caught a steelhead or a bass. I have caught trout many times. I hope to meet you sometime.

Your friend,



Mariah is obviously a smart kid: any youngster who likes reading and fly fishing has got life pretty much figured out already.  It comes as no surprise that Mariah is a fishy kid since her Grand Dad owns the Red Shed Fly Shop in Peck, Idaho (thanks for carrying the Olive books, Poppy!). Here’s a photo of the Olive books on the shelf at the Red Shed:

If you’re planning to fish the Clearwater River in Idaho, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Red Shed and meet Poppy (and Mariah, too, since I’m told she works there quite a bit).  While I’ve yet to fish the Clearwater, doing so is high on my list of things to do. You can bet I’ll be stopping by to meet Poppy and Mariah.

To get to the Red Shed:




And Mariah, I’m so glad you brought up steelhead and bass because those are the topics of my next two Olive books. Hopefully they’ll get published soon (tell all your friends about Olive!). Thanks for taking the time to write me, and for including the awesome drawing of the jumping rainbow trout!

Free coloring pages for fishy kids.

What kid doesn’t like to color, right?  Inside or outside the lines, every kid likes to lay down the crayon wax and create something in their own vision. If you’re not already familiar with Fishy Kid, you owe it to yourself and your kids to give this website a good look.  They have a coloring book that you can download for free after you register – don’t worry, there are no strings attached and they’re not going to SPAM you with junk mail.  Fishy Kid exists for the sole purpose of promoting fly fishing for kids – getting kids outdoors and experiencing all the nature has to offer…with a fly rod in hand.  A couple of times each year Fishy Kid also has a coloring contest for kids who want to enter. There are some really great prizes, too, as the list of supporting sponsors reads like a “Who’s Who” in the fly fishing industry. Click on over and download the Fishy Kid coloring book.

While you’re downloading stuff for your kids, Olive the Woolly Bugger offers some free coloring pages and word puzzles that you can download for your kids. Click here for Olive’s fun, free stuff.

And if you just want to download the coloring pages for yourself, there’s no shame in that.  My kids like to tease me and say that I like to color.  True, but it’s now called illustrating.

Sharpen those Crayolas and get coloring!