Sunday, August 31, 2008
I am a book nut. Always have been. It comes from Mom and Dad. I grew up in a house filled with books and reading, so it became part of my identity. My small apartment is crowded with literally hundreds of books. They sit on shelves, are stacked on cocktail tables, and spill onto the floor in stacks. When I got seriously into the art of angling, I began to collect books on that subject as well. Above is a small sample of select books I own. Procuring them was easy. I was the book buyer at Laacke and Joys, so I could order books for myself as well as for the store. It was dangerous to my pocketbook.
Books are an inspiration. I love to curl up with a book while listening to classical music. When I sit down at the vise to create, sometimes I don't know what I want to tie. I open a book and find inspiration and ideas.
Books are my friends. As misanthropic as it may sound, I often find more wealth in books than in most people.
The Art of Angling Journal is a favorite of mine. I wish it were still in publication. The earlier issues were the best. As they ran out of good material from their tying books, the publishers began to add a little too much filler. I still pour over these volumes quite often. They are beautifully done. Too bad Schmookler is such a nut. Shewey's book on spey flies is another favorite. I love the history and photography. Veverka's book is equally good, but seems mis-titled. He spends over half the book on Dee flies, which is fine by me. Schmookler's large volume of fly tying furs and feathers and patterns is a real treasure. I wish I owned the other volume. The star of my collection are signed copies of Ken Sawata's books. The book on tubes shows why he is possibly the finest tier out there today. It seems like he must be located between a museum, zoo, and aviary in order to tie with the exotic materials he uses. I have read Dec's book about twenty times now. Sometimes I think I can recite chapters in my sleep. A fine job, Dec.
I also own about two dozen books on fly fishing. Most all of them are literary or anecdotal in nature, not how-to books. Seth Norman, Nick Lyons, and John Gierach top the list. I like authors that can laugh at themselves. I own a copy of The Philosophical Fisherman by Harold Blaisdell. A heck of a gift that Dad or Mom found at a thrift sale at a retirement home. Another favorite is Six Months in Scotland by Sylvester Nemes. It is full of history and observation, and comes complete with a fly tied by the author. It is also autographed.
Good writing is tough to come across. That is why I enjoy John Gierach so much. He has a talent in the craft and use of the English language that I appreciate. One gift from a co-worker when I departed Laacke's was Fly Fishing through the Mid-Life Crisis by Howell Raines. Howell's position at the Times, and his background in literary endeavors and journalism created a fine writer. This thing was a total surprise to me. What a book.
For every good book out there there are ten bad ones. Any clod can write a book and get it published, even if he dropped out of school in the sixth grade, spent the following forty years fishing every day, and thinks that Scotch are people from Scotland. There are also pretend know-it-alls. One great example of this is Matt Supinski. He wrote Steelhead Dreams, a book about the pursuit of steelhead on the fly. Parts of the book are good, and parts are so bad they make any reader in the know wretch up his or her supper. The parts he gets right are fairly easy. Fish live in water, steelhead will eat a fly, etc. The parts where he errs are truly awful. He describes himself in a photo "The author performs a perfect Spey-Cast." He is casting upstream with a sloppy loop, and dropping his rod tip so far he can be described as Derek Brown would as "A nodding Donkey." Donkey is right, ass is more appropriate. Nice twenty foot cast Matt. He then went on to become the Orvis expert of all things 'Spey', which pretty much proves that Orvis has no clue beyond the trout streams where they were born.
Reputations are fragile things. Authors and book sales often live and die by them. In our little community of self-absorbed fly fishing goons, stretch the truth even a little bit and you will be called out.
There are a lot of books that should be written but never are. Self doubt, lack of time, lack of literary skill all torpedo the process. I think there is a book in each of us. Imagine if all the knowledge that is in Harry Lamire's head could have been placed on paper, or Walt Johnson, Syd Glasso, Ed Haas?
Go write something now. Or, just curl up with a good book and drift off to a river full of mists and wild fish...
I know I will.