cover image The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing

The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing

Mark Kurlansky. Bloomsbury, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63557-307-7

Journalist Kurlansky (Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of a Common Fate) enlivens a quotidian subject in this vibrant treatise on fly-fishing. The draw of fly-fishing, Kurlansky suggests, lies in the sport’s challenging nature—it takes more patience, guile, and finesse than bait fishing. Alongside personal meditations, Kurlansky provides a wide-ranging history of fly-fishing, noting how it has featured in art, literature, and the lives of political figures. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, for example, loved fish and protected salmon runs in the northern Spanish rivers; Herbert Hoover was “a dedicated fly fisher”; and Czech writer Ota Pavel wrote, “fishing is about freedom, most of all.” Kurlansky describes his personal draw to fly-fishing as a primordial urge, writing, “whenever I see a body of water, I look for fish.” He enlivens historical explanations with personal anecdotes, describing, for example, the history of the fishing rod as he tells the story of once fishing with an old bamboo rod that a park ranger failed to recognize as an instrument for fishing. Kurlansky captures in crisp detail his experience in nature: “That an icy river can have a warm embrace is one of nature’s ironies.” This is a thoroughly enjoyable mash-up of vivid memoir and fastidious, eccentric history. (Mar.)