Tom Morgan's Favorite Flies Favorite Waters
[click photo to enlarge]

The Making of the Book

In early 2008, Tom and I started talking about collaborating on a book that would be a tribute to his fishing experiences. It would encompass my book art passion and Tom’s vast fishing knowledge. In spite of all our rodmaking demands, we decided it would be a good piece of art work for my November 2009 opening at the Artists’ Gallery in Bozeman, Montana.

There are always several evolutions in designing a book. Many ideas get tried and discarded until things start to harmonize—a bit like tuning a guitar. Once they are all in tune—the book sings!

I really enjoy creating small books. I like unique bindings—something that will surprise the reader. Because the book would be small, Tom’s stories would need to be tightly written.

Tom Morgan's Favorite Flies Favorite Waters
[click photo to enlarge]

Originally we thought about having the flies embedded in the book, but because they have bushy hackle and are full-bodied, we could see it wouldn’t work. So we decided to mount the flies in a box that would also house the book. We knew we wanted the materials to be archival quality. With the help of Michael Ambrosio, at Legion Paper in New York City, I found a beautiful Italian made cotton rag paper. The book cloth for the cover is also made in Italy. In the early stages, I contacted a local printer to create a die for cutting an oval window in the paper in which to place the photos of the streams and rivers. As I was experimenting with the layout, I printed the photos directly on the text paper and it looked so beautiful with the softness of a watercolor, Tom and I decided it was much better this way. I found embossing plates from my collection and went to work around the photos. The pages are printed on my Epson R1800 archival printer using In Design CS3 as my layout program. I hope to make at least 200 books in this edition.

Tom Morgan's Favorite Flies Favorite Waters
[click photo to enlarge]

The flies Tom chose for the book are the twelve most favorite that he loved to fish. He had a lot of fun thinking about which fishing stories he wanted to share and they brought him wonderful memories—an unexpected benefit. Many of the stories are about an actual fishing experience Tom had or descriptions of his fishing techniques. At first Tom was just going to write stories about the trout flies he was most fond of, but realized that steelhead fishing was such a big part of his life, he couldn’t leave them out. Writing these stories in under 800 words was a challenge for Tom, but he found his voice for this book and came to appreciate the skills he honed. Sandy Pittendrigh read each story and kept him on track while Arthur Coffin, English Professor Emeritus, was Tom’s editor.

There are three categories of flies which are included in the book: the steelhead flies, the wet flies and the dry flies. The dry flies are divided into two categories. One group matches the color of the hatch and the other are attractor patterns that work under a wide variety of conditions. The wet flies work exceptionally well with The Morgan Twitch retrieve. The Sparse Comet was his original steelhead wet fly and the Bomber the dry fly that he used during the last years that he fished.

We were thrilled to have Rene Harrop, Craig Mathews and Matthew Doak working with us because of their exceptional fly tying skills. Rene tied the Renegade, Ginger Quill, Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulff, Blue Dun, Adams, and Goofus Bug patterns. Craig tied the Al's Yellow Hopper, Sparse Comet, White Marabou Muddler, and Girdle Bug patterns. Matthew tied the Bombers. Many of these flies are no longer popular and it’s wonderful to have them available for people to appreciate.

Tom Morgan's Favorite Flies Favorite Waters
[click photo to enlarge]

After Tom selected the flies we both thought it would important to include their histories in the book. Jim Adams, a noted book and tackle dealer, provided us with almost all of the historical information. Its inclusion has added an extra dimension to the book.

The medallion that graces the box lid was needed to signify that something special was inside. We first thought that I could do the drawing, but it soon became evident that we would need a professional artist to help us. Robert Spannring, an artist from Livingston, Montana, drew the design of a kneeling fisherman, illustrating how Tom was so effective in stalking fish. The Medallion was minted at the NW Territorial Mint in Washington, the same company who strikes the silver coin for our fly rod tube.

Tom Morgan's Favorite Flies Favorite Waters
[click photo to enlarge]

It was now time to design the box and, of course, it would need to be exceptionally well-crafted. The first design was a square box divided for the flies and the book. I wasn’t happy with the design because I wanted the book to be easily accessed as well as protecting the flies. I came up with a “serpentine” box shape, though it presented numerous challenges to the box maker, Bob Jackson, who also assisted us in refining the design. This box turned out perfectly making the flies visible, yet protected, as well as allowing easy access to the book.

Tom and I explored several ways to mount the flies in the box. We spoke with well-known tiers who mount their own flies in shadow boxes. We were first of all concerned about the durability of their methods as we expect to ship these books world wide. Tom thought that magnets might be a good idea. I was reluctant to go along with this far out idea because it felt too gadgety—not artistic enough. However, when we actually tried the magnets they worked remarkably well. We thought that if they were plated a lovely pewter color, they would appeal to Tom’s need for function and my need for elegance. After talking with our friends who love to look at flies, we realized how nice it would be for a reader to be able to pick the fly up and take a closer look.

Tom and I are pleased to share with you our passion for book making and fly fishing. Enjoy!

Gerri Carlson


Questions? Contact us:
21505 Norris Road
Manhattan, MT 59741


Phone: 406.282.7110
Fax: 406.282.7167

(Note: is no longer a working address)

Toms Design Philosophy
The Cork
  the Bozeman Reels
Forbes Life Magazine Article
Slow Poke Press
Morgan-Carlson view lot
Coastal Conservation Association
Bellinger Award