Astream | American Writers on Fly Fishing

Books & Writers

Of all outdoor pursuits, fly fishing seems to inspire the largest portion of lyrical writing, and this fine book, edited by Robert DeMott, snags its fair share, including essays by a slew of Montanans.

The usual suspects are here -– Jim Harrison, Tom McGuane, Russell Chatham and Greg Keeler – as well as accomplished authors/anglers Walter Bennett, Chris Dombrowski, Craig Mathews, Jake Mosher and Paul Schullery. Even actor Michael Keaton, who owns a ranch near Livingston, penned a piece.

Chatham (whose artwork also graces the cover of the book) evokes fishing for steelhead and silver salmon as a young man on the north coast of California in “A Set of Tides.”

Both McGuane and Dombrowski mention fishing as an antidote to depression. For Dombrowski, it’s fishing for steelhead at night on the Platte River “that pulled a beleaguered man out of himself and set him back on the earth” ; for McGuane, in “Seeing Snook,” fishing offers “an indispensable connection to earth and life.”

Harrison commends “Older Fishing” as a “gentler, far less aggressive and far less acquisitive” sport than the one he once practiced. He hires a guide, rows some, naps and – as a “peculiar and particular” diner, always tries to pack a tasty lunch. “Fishing is a slow grower. You start in your youth and slowly progress to the full meaning of what you experience.”

Keaton remembers “plain fishin’” with his father in the small streams of rural Pennsylvania, and Craig Mathews, who owns a fly shop in West Yellowstone, pays tribute to mentor and friend Nick Lyons (who also has a piece in this collection).

There’s plenty of action here for avid anglers, but the beauty of the book is in its undercurrents, the deep holes where “the holy trout, our cutthroat gods” linger (from the delightful “Cutthroats in Heaven” by Idaho poet Robert Wrigley).

“Just damn fine writing from beginning to end,” says Carl Hiaasen of the collection.

– Kristi Niemeyer