fly fishing books

Olive is about more than just fly fishing.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Now there’s an expression we’ve all heard before, and we all know that it has a dual meaning that goes beyond the literal translation. In the case of a certain series of childrens fly fishing books, the average person may not need to look beyond the cover to find the books worthy of purchase for the kids in their lives.  Afterall, if you like fly fishing, you likely want to share that passion with your children. But what if you’re a discerning parent looking for more than just a book about fly fishing – a book with some substance?  Or perhaps you’re not an angler yourself and the thought of a book about fly fishing has no interest to you and therefore no interest to your child? You really can’t know what truly lies beneath the surface without having read the book.

A childrens book has to be about something – there has to be some substance/message or no publisher worth their salt would choose to acquire the title.  So what is Olive all about?  Simply looking at the titles of the books, that answer may seem obvious: they’re books about fly fishing, right? True, and if that weren’t obvious then I would have failed miserably! Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride are books clearly having something to do with fly fishing.  But open the cover and read the stories within and you’ll find that just as there’s more to fishing than catching fish, there’s more to Olive than just fly fishing.

In Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, our central character goes off to Camp Tightloops to learn to become a fishing fly.  There she learns the basics of fly casting and presentation and the need for barbless hooks. She also learns basic fly fishing terminology and how different flies are used in different situations. Pretty straightforward fly fishing stuff.  But she also learns about perseverance and unfortunately what it’s like to be an outcast: life lessons that go beyond the river bank or lake shore.

Through her adventure in the next book, Olive and The Big Stream, Olive puts what she has learned to the test and goes fishing for the very first time.  She obviously learns of the importance of catch and release fishing as she successfully hooks and lands her first wild trout, but again, there’s more.  She has learned compassion and the need to accept others who may be different, and when her friends fail on their first attempts at fishing she knows better than to tease and taunt. She knows firsthand what it’s like to be the recipient of such harmful behavior, and displays kindness to all others. She also learns to respect the very thing that makes fishing what it is: fish.

In the third book, Olive Goes for a Wild Ride, Olive becomes separated from her friends and faces the fears that all kids would should they become lost.  She soon hooks up with a stranger who befriends her and the two set off on a wild adventure where Olive, who up to this point has always been the student, becomes the teacher.  Together she and her friend explore a wild river and learn about each other and all that is important in the great circle of life.

The obvious point of the books is to introduce younger children to fly fishing – to plant a seed of interest in hopes of getting kids outside and participating in a wonderful experience.  Who knows, if Olive is a child’s introduction into the world of fly fishing, maybe they’ll become future stewards of our resources. Along the way hopefully they’ll learn to be accepting of others who are different from themselves.  Compassion goes a long way in creating people of strong character. To that end we can all learn from Olive.

So yes, Olive is all about fly fishing.  But she is about so much more as well.

And just as Olive is about more than just fly fishing, profit from sales of the books is about much more than just making a few bucks.  A percentage of proceeds from the sale of all books is donated to two groups that use fly fishing as a means of raising money to help fund research for childhood diseases:

Hooked On a Cure, hosts an annual fly fishing event to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Casting 4 A Cure, uses fly fishing events to raise money for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation to help fund research for Rett Syndrome and support for families dealing with special needs kids.

Both groups are led by fabulous, compassionate people that happen to love fly fishing. When I learned of these groups it became obvious that Olive needed to do what she could to help. What better than a series of books for kids about fly fishing, helping groups of people who use fly fishing to help kids?

So if you’re heard of the Olive series of fly fishing books for kids, consider taking a closer look. If you’ve never heard of them until now, I also ask that you look beneath the surface to see what the books have to offer.

You truly cannot accurately judge a book by the cover, and exploring beneath the surface may yield some pleasant surprises.  Fishing dries on the surface is fun, but an astute angler knows that fish take the majority of their meals under water.  Exploring the depths is what makes the woolly bugger such an effective and popular pattern.  Take a closer look- I think you’ll get hooked on Olive the Woolly Bugger, and by doing so you’ll be helping kids in more ways than one.

Why the Woolly Bugger?

For those inclined toward fly fishing, the word(s) “Woolly Bugger” is as common as “rod” and “reel”. For those who are not in the fly fishing know, Woolly Bugger is certainly a curious term.

Rather than use up a bunch of bandwidth trying to offer an eloquent description of the Woolly Bugger here, let me point you to perhaps the single best explanation available, written by Cameron Larsen, titled the Ubiquitous Woolly Bugger. That pretty much sums it up.

The Woolly Bugger can be tied in many variations. It’s just as common to see them tied sparsely as it is to see them fat and real bushy. Some are tied using bead heads, some using tungsten cone heads, and some with dumbell eyes for additional weight and “realisim” in representing a baitfish.  Traditionally the Woolly Bugger is not overly ornate, tied in brown, black and of course olive marabou, chenille and hackle. Over time tiers have gotten liberal in using a wide variety of colors and additional material.  It’s not uncommon to see the Woolly Bugger tied using rubber legs and a bit of flash, as if the uber-effective patterns needed anything besides their big bushy tails to set gamefish into a tizzy.  They are effective, and perhaps the most versatile of all flies because they represent so much, yet nothing in particular, in the water.  Whatever the case may be, the Woolly Bugger spells “food” for fish. And not just trout.  Everything from bass to steelhead will hit a woolly bugger if you present the fly properly.

It’s been said:  “The Woolly Bugger is so effective, it should be banned from some watersheds. I suspect its effectiveness is due to its resemblance to so many edible creatures in the water–nymphs, leeches, salamanders, or even small sculpins. Its tail undulating behind a fiber, bubble-filled body is just too much for most fish to resist. It just looks like a meal!” – Bill Hunter, The Professionals’ Favorite Flies

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

As for how to fish the Woolly Bugger, Gary Soucie wrote a great article for Midcurrent that comprehensively covers just about everything you need to know. Read the article here.

Just as there are many variations of the fly pattern itself, the spelling of the name seems to be up for debate, or at least interpretation, as well.  One will find many different ways to communicate the same thing:

Wooly Bugger. Wooley Bugger. Woolley Bugger. Wolly Bugger. Wolley Bugger (the latter two I assume are innocent typographical errors). The list may go on.  I myself prefer Woolly Bugger – it  looks as if that’s how it should be spelled.

And “Woolly” has a certain playfulness to it which was an important consideration when deciding to name a series of fly fishing books for kids after the fly. The funny looking name certainly lends itself well to a children’s book, and admit it – “woolly bugger” is fun to say.   I read once where the decision to name a book is critical (this seemed obvious to me). The article cited J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter as an easy name to remember because it’s unusual. I believe Olive the Woolly Bugger is equally as unusual as Harry Potter – perhaps even moreso.  But Harry Potter’s success isn’t due just to the name, and I seriously doubt I’ll be the next J.K. Rowlings. That’s fine with me although I would like to sell even a fraction of the books she has.

To the unindoctrinated, a Woolly Bugger is a curious name of considerable whimsy, so it was a perfect title to hook readers.  Olive, as a color,  is one of the traditional and best known variations, and for obvious reasons became a logical choice when naming the central character.  Calling her “Black the Little Woolly Bugger” or “Brown the Little Woolly Bugger” just wouldn’t have had the same appeal, so the clear choice became “Olive the Little Woolly Bugger”.

Nothing in this world is without complications, however, and it would seem that something as innocent as a children’s book about fly fishing stands to encounter some challenges.  Shortly after having the books published I received a very nice email from a gentleman in England.  He pointed out to me that in the UK, the term “bugger” carries with it certain “negative” connotations, and that I might be up against a bit if a struggle marketing my books in the UK.  I thanked him for his nice note and acknowledged my familiarity with the unfortunate association.  However, I am confident that fly anglers in the United Kingdom are well aware of the Woolly Bugger (and hopefully by now Olive the Little Woolly Bugger), and can enjoy each without being offended.

I assure you that Olive the Little Woolly Bugger is nothing more than good, clean fun for kids and those who are kids at heart.