We sat down with Teemu Tolonen, the author of the Top Salmon Flies book series and discussed how was the book writing process and was there something yet left untold.
1. Tell us how you got the idea to write the books in the first place ?
Well I think I’ve always wanted to contribute to the sport some way. And fly fishing for salmon seemed to be segment in fly fishing where there was lot of untold stories left and new things to be discovered.
I had a turning point in my life when we got twin boys with my wife. It’s hard work to take care of two babies at a time so I knew my fishing days were really limited. Working with a book project was like a therapy for me. Having amazing discussions with enthusiastic and talented anglers was the closest thing I had to actually fishing myself.
Having amazing discussions with enthusiastic and talented anglers was the closest thing I had to actually fishing myself.
2. How did the concept come together ?
I knew that I didn’t have enough experience, nor I think I’ll ever have, to write about salmon fishing based solely on my personal opinions. So it made the perfect sense to have contributors that I had met while fishing for salmon to showcase their flies and methods. I started working with the ”hypothesis” that there’s just a handful of flies that any angler needs. All the contributors in the books related to this hypothesis so I didn’t have to fight with them about the number of flies or other unimportant details.
The first book in the series was the first book I have ever written and I was extremely happy to get it published. But as soon as I got it out, I knew that I need to do a next version. Especially when I started hearing really positive feedback from readers I thought immediately that I need to continue with the series.
In the second book we focused we did more in-depth interviews. We also invested in the design and picture quality.
3. What does it take to write a book ?
there’s a lot of heart and soul in the books
I wouldn’t call myself an author yet, rather an editor or reporter who’s had the privilege to work with really great anglers. I’m not looking to be the next Hemingway but I can say that there’s a lot of heart and soul in the books. And the heart comes from other anglers. I think I succeeded to get the contributors to share their thoughts openly without any limitations.
Writing a book is really time consuming. It took well over a year to get the second volume finished. It takes quite some time to interview dozen anglers and get the stories into written format. I recorded all the video call we did so I could watch them again and again to get the answers I wanted to.
Have in mind that I’m not a professional writer. I’m a regular working man with three sons so working with the book meant that I could start editing the material after I got my kids to bed. The last four months in the writing process I was working every Sunday with the text. I needed to postpone the launch already once so I needed the Sunday to actually finish.
That’s just the writing part. But then there’s the photography and the design of the book. The first book was a pretty much DIY - project where I even took all the fly pictures myself. For the second volume I wanted to invest in the production and got my friend Pasi Visakivi to work with the fly photography. After seeing his work, I can honestly say that he’s a world class photographer. And the design work by Pieta Piiroinen just topped everything off.
I don’t know if I’m the best person to advise anyone else on writing books, but there’s few things to keep in mind. First, reserve enough time to get it done. What ever you think it will take, double the time. Second, write a list of things you need for the book. It’s more or less project management most of the time. Writing, getting content from others, communicating to partners.
4. What does the future of salmon fishing look like?
I am genuinely worried about the future of Atlantic Salmon. And the future of environment on this planet. There’s no way we can keep on living the way we have been living.
We should focus on the locations which are closest to us and accessible any time.
Fly fishers are usually in the forefront of environmental issues but we should take a long hard look to the mirror. I had a great conversation with Lars Munk about the importance of the ”home river”. We should focus on the locations which are closest to us and accessible any time. If our home rivers need restoration or conservation efforts, then by all means we should focus on that instead of jumping on a plane and flying to a dream location. The problems won’t go away just by looking away. The environmental impact coming from traveling to a close river with a train for example is just a fraction compared to flying somewhere.
I’m certain we can find sustainable for to fish for salmon. And it starts from taking care of this planet. Hopefully we can do the change before it’s too late.
5. Will there be volume 3 ?
I was planning to leave this open but I couldn’t help myself so in Top Salmon Flies Volume 2 I promised to continue the saga and finish the trilogy. But I have left the official schedule open. For the next season or two I would like to focus on fishing but I already have a concept in my head about the next book. I think there are so many great anglers out there who deserve to be heard. And there will be always mysteries to reveal.