As I get ready to depart for Alaska, I’ve been gathering some reading material for the planes, trains and buses I’ll be riding. I thought I’d share with you a list of the best piscatorial literature I’ve come across in what I’d like to call my Years of Not Catching Much. As the saying goes, “The Lord does not subtract from your appointed days on Earth the time spent fishing.” I’m not sure that holds for reading about fishing. Or fish. But here goes (and please forgive me for leaving out The Compleat Angler — my last choice makes up for it).
- A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean. No, It is not enough to see the movie. And it is ok to cry at the end.
- The Old Man And The Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Veteran rod and gun inkster Hemingway had a big crossover hit with this tale about the Cuban deep sea angler Santiago and his bout with a marlin, proving, among other things, that a bait fisherman can be a compelling literary protagonist.
- Ninety-Two In The Shade, The Longest Silence by Thomas McGuane. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, McGuane writes beautifully about fishing. Ninety-Two In The Shade, set in the Florida Keys, is one of his earliest novels; The Longest Silence is a collection of essays set mostly in trout streams the world over.
- Blues by John Hersey. Blues is Hersey’s ode to bluefish, stalked in the waters outside of Martha’s Vineyard. Each chapter concludes with a recipe for bluefish. The perfect gift for that Special Someone you hope will fix you dinner.
- Anything by John Gierach. His most recent collection is No Shortage of Good Days. Gierach lives somewhere in the vicinity of the Frying Pan River in Colorado. His essays cover a good portion of North America, written with a wry sentimentality and steady wit. The titles tell you all you need to know. Among them: Trout Bum, Sex Death and Fly Fishing, Fool’s Paradise, Standing In A River, Waving A Stick..
- 6. Moby Dick (Cliff Notes Version). This is the version I read on the plane back from the Florida Keys, where my Dad had taken me bonefishing the week my term paper on Moby Dick was due. Call Me Incomplete.
- Book of Jonah: Gershwin Version:
Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale, Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale,
Fo’ he made his home in
Dat fish’s abdomen.
Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale.
- Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen. If you loved Hiaasen’s earliest novels this one, spun around a bass fishing tournament, is one of his best. It introduced an ex-Florida governor named Skink, who became one of Hiaasen’s enduring characters.
- The River Why by David James Duncan. Gus Orviston devotes his life to fly fishing in Oregon. This book was published by The Sierra Club in 1982, proving inconclusively that it has a sense of humor. AND FINALLY…
- How To Fish Good by Milford Stanley Poltroon. I believe the cover speaks for itself. Good luck finding it.