cover image Reeling in Russia: An American Angler in Russia

Reeling in Russia: An American Angler in Russia

Fen Montaigne. St. Martin's Press, $24.95 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-312-18595-4

In a book that is part fly-fishing adventure and part social commentary on rural Russian life, Montaigne (former Moscow bureau chief for the Philadelphia Inquirer) casts his flies in Russia's great rivers and expertly and beautifully hooks the essence of Russia's ""dilapidated landscape, inhabited by people who knew hardship as intimately as we might a member of the family."" Montaigne fishes for cod and herring off the Solovetsky Islands in the Barents Sea, and for salmon on the Kola Peninsula--where he first meets Russia's new and often unethical businessman trying to make a money off Western sportsmen. He embarks eastward on the trans-Siberian railroad, where he is accosted by one of the railway's ubiquitous stern women train attendants and almost drugged by three women thieves. His first stop is on the Volga River for Russia's famous sturgeon, pike and perch. He then travels to Lake Baikal and Kamchatka, where he encounters many more people, rendering their tales in an evenhanded manner that often captures the poor quality of Russian life. As far as his fishing is concerned, he catches some, loses a few and often doesn't get so much as a bite in Russia's polluted, over-fished waters. And when he does land the big one, he resigns himself to giving it to his hungry Russian guides. In Russia, fishing is not a sport but a way of life, and he is often ridiculed for using such an ineffective method of catching something so precious. Montaigne's enlightened travelogue will appeal not only to fly-fishing enthusiasts but to anyone wanting to know more about Russia and what makes it reel and spin. (June)