or, perhaps Olive the Woolly Blogger...

Tag: childrens fly fishing books (Page 1 of 2)

Books are in my blood

I’ve been on a bit of a history kick lately as I’ve poured over old family photos from generations ago.  A few months ago I wrote about my great, great grandfather Paul Edward Werner, who founded what was at the time the largest publishing company in the world (before he lost everything and left future generations of Werners to find their own way in life). My great grandfather, Edward Paul Werner, grew up to run the family business in Akron, Ohio, and after the collapse of the Werner Printing and Lithograph empire, Ed Werner (“Pop” as he was known to family) continued to work in the printing industry.

Edward P. Werner

The collection of old family photos also included some newspaper clippings, one of which in particular I found very interesting. The article below is from the Beacon Journal, dated June 14. 1959. It announced that “Pop” was being honored as “Mr. Printer” by the Akron Club of Printing House Craftsmen. At the time my great grandfather was 83 years old and had been retired from the printing business since 1941.  He lived to the ripe old age of 96 and enjoyed a life of excellent health, right up until the end when he died peacefully in his sleep.  I had the pleasure of meeting Pop in 1967. I was a wee lad of 4-1/2 years when our family took a trip to Akron, and I remember him being a kind, fun man who was full of vitality. Of course, he was only 91 at the time so it only stands to reason!

The article points out that the Werner Printing and Lithograph Company printed state law books, catalogues and did some commercial printing.  I know for a fact that the company also printed a set of leather-bound encyclopedias because I have a few volumes, sitting in a box somewhere, slowly decaying (the price to restore them was cost-prohibitive the last time I checked). The article also mentions that in 1900:

Arthur J. Saalfield came to Akron and became manager of the company’s trade book department. Eight years later, Saalfield bought the department and moved it into a plant in South Akron, where it grew over the years into the Saalfield Publishing Company, the largest publisher of children’s books in the world.

So it would seem that the book business is in my blood. I can only hope that in another 100 years people will remember Olive the Woolly Bugger. And I’ve heard it said that an artist is never famous until after their death. Well, I hope I live as long as my great grandfather, which means I won’t be famous for another 47 years.


Getting to know: Mr. Muddler Minnow

Muddler Minnow

This is the first in a series of interviews with characters from the Olive books. If you’re already familiar with the books, you’ll know these “folks” being interviewed. If you’ve not yet seen the books, these interviews will give you some insight into the colorful cast of characters who help to make Olive’s adventures so engaging and fun.

Today, Olive interviews her mentor, Camp Tightloops counselor, and all around good guy, Mr. Muddler Minnow.

Olive: Hi, Mr. Muddler Minnow–it’s great to see you!

MMM: Thanks for having me on the show today, Olive.

Olive: Let’s get right down to business.  You are, of course, a Muddler Minnow. What’s your favorite way to catch fish?

MMM: Well, I’m a classic old streamer, easily recognized by my spun deer hair head. There’s nothing I like more than swinging through the current and being strip-retrieved in short tugs. I love to zip and dart!

Olive: Me too!  In fact, you’re the one who taught me to zip and dart!  Up until then I thought I wanted to be a dry fly, but after you showed me my purpose in life I never looked back. What is it you like so much about zipping and darting?

MMM: As you know, Olive, big fish like to eat streamers because streamers represent very large insects, wounded baitfish, or just about any other form of aquatic food. And we represent a large meal. All size fish will try to snatch us up, but it’s the big fish that really go for streamers. When streamers are tugged in short bursts, the action of zipping and darting drives fish crazy!  I’m specifically tied to look like a sculpin, which is a small type of fish that larger fish love to eat. Streamers are irresistible.

Olive: I agree!  So would you say that streamer fishing is the best way to fly fish?

MMM: I don’t want to say that one method is better than another, because all styles of fly fishing have their benefits. I can also be used as a dry fly in certain instances, skated across the surface of the water. That can be a very exciting way to catch fish as well. It’s all good–that’s what makes fly fishing so fun.

Olive: That’s so cool. Sometimes I still wish I could float, but it’s OK that I don’t.

MMM: We’re all different, Olive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need to embrace what makes us unique and do our very best. And we also need to acknowledge that everyone has a purpose in life, and we shouldn’t judge others just because they’re different than us.

Olive: That’s for sure. You taught me that, and I may have never made it into The Fly Box if you hadn’t! So, tell me, are you retired now?

MMM: Well, I’m not sure if I can ever retire. As you know, I’ve been retired before, but I seem to have a hard time staying away from the water. I love to fish. I may not fish as often as I used to, but I love being in The Fly Box where I can help some of the younger flies learn their trade. And some of those grumpy old veterans can get a little bit critical sometimes so I need to keep them in check.

Olive: It’s fun to listen to the old timers argue and tell old stories.

MMM: Most of the stories they tell aren’t quite accurate, Olive. Much of what they’re saying are half-truths.

Olive: What do you mean by half-truths, sir?

MMM: (laughs) Well, most of the time the old veterans don’t remember how big the fish were that they caught a long time ago. Over time, the size of those fish tends to get bigger.

Olive: That’s funny.  But isn’t it true that long ago there were a lot more fish in the rivers? You know, back when the veterans were just rookies themselves?

MMM: Yes, that’s absolutely the case, Olive. I can confirm that when I was a much younger fly, the rivers had a lot more fish in them than most do today. It was a rare thing to go fishing and not come home with your limit.

Olive: So back in the olden days you kept your fish?

MMM: Sadly, yes.  We didn’t practice catch and release back then. We caught fish and kept them. We thought the fish were in endless supply. We didn’t mean to do anything wrong, we just didn’t know differently.

Olive: But now there aren’t as many fish, and most of the time it’s catch and release when we go fishing. Do you still enjoy it?

MMM: Oh, absolutely. The thrill of finding a fish and convincing the fish that I’m a real meal–that’s what I enjoy. I love the game of tug-of-war once I hook a big fish. I don’t mind releasing the fish one bit. You’re familiar with the expression, “There’s more to fishing than catching fish.” That’s very true. I just enjoy being outdoors in a natural setting, being cast into a beautiful piece of water, and looking for fish. And now I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping others become better fly fishing flies.

Olive: Do you ever keep fish any more?

MMM: Not often, but occasionally. When I’m fishing in a lake that has stocked trout, for example, I enjoy keeping a fish or two. Or when I have the occasion to fish for steelhead, I’ll definitely keep a hatchery fish. That’s why those fish were placed there: to be caught and kept. But I always release wild fish.

Olive: One more question. If you were in a movie and you could choose a famous actor to lend their voice talent to the role of Mr. Muddler Minnow, who would you choose?

MMM: Wow, that’s a tough choice, Olive. There are so many great actors with very distinct voices…three come to mind immediately: Wilford Brimley, Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck. There’s something about either of those gentleman that I can identify with. I hear they’re all fly fishermen, and I’d be honored if they were to play the voice of me.

Wilford Brimley

Sam Elliott

Tom Selleck


5 star Review: Olive Goes for a Wild Ride

After two, 5 star reviews  by Jason Kirkfield on Amazon.com, I was not assuming that the third and remaining review would be a slam-dunk. Therefore, when the final review came in for the third book in the Olive series, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, I have confidence in my writing and story telling, but book reviews are still very much a subjective endeavor so you just never know. For me personally, the third book is my favorite (although that matters not to anyone else who reads the series). Mr. Kirkfield picked up on a subtlety that hasn’t been noted before, but is certainly worth mentioning.  It has to do with the maturation process for Olive the woolly bugger. Over the course of the first two books, Olive is the student. In the third, she becomes teacher. That’s how it is in fly fishing and in life. I’m pleased that the reviewer mentioned this. Characters must grow, and over the course of the stories, Olive does just that.

Having previously reviewed his first and second books, I knew that Kirk Werner had to do something special to maintain the same high level of awesomeness. He did.

Olive is, for anyone unfamiliar with the first two books, a woolly bugger. The author-illustrator’s skill at drawing fishing flies who can emote is impressive. (Whether or not they can molt is another question altogether!)

Olive Goes for a Wild Ride is the final entry in the Olive series*, at least for now. Even if Kirk’s dreams of seeing Olive on the big screen do not materialize, I hope we will see more of his hooked heroine in future books. Symbolically, he has ended this series by illustrating (both literally and figuratively) the circle of life.

Olive’s task here is aided by the hugely likable form of Clark, the small fry. Olive’s fly friends play a much smaller role in this book, perhaps emphasizing the maturing process as Olive gets older and begins to rely more on herself. Olive Goes for a Wild Ride is by far the scariest of all three books. Where the first addressed anxiety in a new school setting, and the second challenged the flies to catch real fish for the first time, this adventure has Olive lost at sea, or at least a river. Rest assured: all is well in the end. Still, I might suggest parents read through initially to best anticipate the story arc. You may also want to prepare your child for the inevitable questions that will follow. This book addresses some very real emotions and topics, even death. If your child is too young for such conversations, you could always enjoy the first two Olive books for now and save the third for when they are a little older.

“But don’t be sad–that’s just the way life is.” (Olive, final page)

* I also reviewed both previous titles in the series, Olive the Little Woolly Bugger and Olive and the Big Stream.


To read the review on Amazon and to see all other reviews by Jason Kirkfield, go HERE.

Five Star Review: Olive the Little Woolly Bugger

Book reviews are something an author looks forward to with mixed emotions. Hopefully the author has confidence in their work. Afterall, in order to have become published, they’ve obviously done something right– or at least impressed the right people.  However, reviews are the opinions of others, and opinions are subjective. So when a review is anticipated it only makes sense that the author may look forward to it with a bit of trepidation.

A while back I was approached by a person who does book reviews. He was inquiring about reviewing the Olive series, and since I don’t keep a stock of books on hand, I suggested he contact the publisher for review copies. I didn’t know if he would or not. Well, he did.

Jason Kirkfield, who calls himself “The Pride and Sorrow of children’s book reviewers”, has done over 100 children’s book reviews on Amazon.com. Here is his review of Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, which happens to have received a 5 star rating:

Olive is a cutie and this is a great introduction to flyfishing,

June 23, 2011
Pacific Northwest native Kirk Werner wrote and illustrated this delightful tale of a Woolly Bugger. (That’s a kind of fishing fly. For flyfishing. Where you use a “fake” bug instead of, say, a real worm. See here.) 

Anyway, Olive is anthropomorphized and essentially takes the place of a young child in this story. We see her attending a summer camp (Camp Tightloops, haha) for young flies to learn how to catch fish. It’s a novel concept, and works well in large part due to Kirk’s expressive illustrations. I don’t think anyone has tried this approach before.

We are taking our kids fishing for the first time this summer, and this book (in fact, this series* of books) provides the perfect introduction. Kids learn how the hooks’ barbs are pinched (to facilitate Catch and Release) and why different flies (dry flies, streamers, nymphs, etc.) are used in different situations and for different fish.

In less selfish terms, Olive the Little Woolly Bugger is a perfect choice for kids who are going to a new summer camp, or starting school, or really any social situation which takes them away from their parents and introduces them to new people and potential anxiety. Olive sets a good example by using her positive attitude, along with the support of her new friends, to earn a spot in The Fly Box.

Ultimately, Kirk’s book aims to teach a fairly common kid lit lesson–being different is good (“discover why being different is what makes Olive a splashing success”); he does so with a unique protagonist and with humor and sensitivity, and he does so successfully.

An appendix presents a dozen photographs of real flies (not real “live” flies, but real photographs of flies used in flyfishing). I think I recognize the “Andy” font which has always been one of my favorites.

* I will also be reviewing the sequels, Olive and the Big Stream and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride.

[The reviewer was provided with a complimentary copy of the book.]
To read the review on Amazon and to see all other reviews by Jason Kirkfield, go HERE. I look forward to Mr. Kirkfield’s reviews of Olive and The Big Stream and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride, with just a hint of trepidation.
Since this entry was originally posted, the review for Olive and The Big Stream has been posted. Read it HERE.

Olive and Oprah, Part V

Miracles.  Do you believe in them?  That’s a question recently asked by Oprah on Facebook. I don’t know if I believe in miracles, but I do believe in perseverance. So does Olive the woolly bugger, which is one of the important lessons in my children’s fly fishing books.

If you’ve been following my exploits in recent weeks, you know that my mission in life is to get Oprah to bless my series of kids books and add them to her recommended Kids’ Reading List.  I figured that since Oprah recently went fly fishing for the first time and proclaimed an interest in doing more, the time is now for her to see my books.

As the saying goes, the last key unlocks the door. I’ve knocked on the door and so far nobody has answered. I’ll keep trying different keys, and if that doesn’t work I may have to jimmy the lock.

Olive and Oprah, Part IV

You all may know by now that Oprah went camping in Yosemite this past summer, and while she was there she tried her hand at fly fishing for the first time. For a little inside scoop about the experience, guide Brian Grossenbacher talks about it over on About.com

If you have been following along with my blog for the past few weeks, you’ve read about my attempts to email Oprah, hoping to get her attention and request that she consider Olive the Woolly Bugger for inclusion in her Kids’ Reading List.  Thus far the attempts at establishing a communication link with Oprah have proven futile, but I shall persevere and eventually I hope to hear back. Recently I had a dream in which my wishes came true. It went something like this (and I apologize for the 13 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back):

Olive and Oprah, Part III

Well, Oprah’s show featuring her camping trip to Yosemite aired last week, and it did include a brief segment about their fly fishing experience. From Oprah’s website:

Oprah and Gayle begin their day, and the first thing on the agenda is a lesson in fly fishing—something Oprah has always dreamed of doing. “I like the idea of putting on the boots and going out in the water and catching and releasing some fish,” Oprah says.

After watching the show, it was painfully clear that Oprah’s friend Gayle was WAY out of her element and she won’t be fishing again anytime soon.

“I’m all done with fly fishing,” Gayle says. “It’s just not for me. I like a pretty pool; I like a pretty colored drink with an umbrella sitting in it.”

To each their own. Afterall, if everyone fly fished, there wouldn’t be a lot of room along the banks of the river. Oprah, on the other hand, had a great attitude and seemed to catch on to the casting fairly well. She indicated that she enjoyed it and will be trying it again.  Conditions didn’t look favorable for catching fish, and they didn’t. But it seems that Oprah quickly grasped the meaning of “there’s more to fishing than catching fish.” In fact, she said that she wants to put together a group and take a trip.  I can imagine that there are any number of fly fishing guides and outfitters across the West that will be vying for a chance to book that trip, but my hunch is that Brian and Jenny Grossenbacher (Grossenbacher Guides) may have a lock on that since they were with Oprah on her trip to Yosemite.

Here are a couple of photos posted on Oprah’s website from their fly fishing lesson.

Strike while the iron is hot

With Oprah’s show featuring her fly fishing experience still smoldering like a nights-old campfire, the time is now to let Oprah know about my books. With that in mind I continue to send an email to her on a weekly basis, although I readily acknowledge that my odds of hearing from Oprah are miniscule. I wonder if maybe I should start my quest with something a little more reasonable?  Perhaps I should send a set of books to the Grossenbachers. Maybe they would forward them to Oprah since they’re all fishin’ buddies. I’m sure they have each others’ cell numbers.

One way or another there has to be a way for my Olive books to get into Oprah’s hands.  What she does with them after that is up to her, but I would sure love to have Olive added to Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List.  More kids need to learn about fly fishing and the great outdoors.  It’s good for kids, as I wrote about HERE. I think Oprah can see the value in that after just one camping trip and one brief fly fishing lesson.

Oprah, are you listening?  I just sent you an email. Looking forward to hearing back from you soon.

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.

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!

So many contests, so little time!

There are a couple different contests going on right now, and with so much excitement, things can get a little confusing. Let me clear things up.

Contest #1: Olive Stickers to support Casting 4 a Cure

This isn’t so much a contest, rather than a friendly competition to raise a little money for a great cause. I’m selling Olive the Woolly Bugger stickers for $3.00 each: of that, $1.50 goes directing to Casting 4 a Cure to fund research and support for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. The other $1.50 covers the cost of printing and postage. The person who places the largest order of stickers as of October 4th 2010 will win a pair of Optic Nerve sunglasses (A $100 value). All you have to do to enter into the competition is click on over to Myflies.com and purchase a sticker. BTW, a sticker will look great on your drift boat, fishing rig, or tricycle.

October is National Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, so what a perfect time to buy an Olive sticker and contribute to such a worthy cause. Stickers will continue to be sold foe the good cause after the contest concludes.

Contest #2: Book Giveaway – 2 Free sets of Olives

I’ve created a little scavenger hunt of sorts for anyone to enter.  There is no cost, other than a few minutes of your time.  If you answer the questions correctly your name will be thrown into my lucky fishing hat. Two names will be drawn, and those lucky folks will each receive a set of three Olive fly fishing books for kids.  Contest ends September 30, 2010 so hurry! Contest rules can be found HERE.

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