The Shining Tides
By Win Brooks
Win Brooks expands the reaches of striped bass fishing into pulp fiction with his 1952 novel The Shining Tides. With a setting like Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and characters like Father O’Meara and Stormy Force, the reader journeys to a time that attempts a faux-Ernest Hemingway/faux-Ian Fleming tenor. Each of the multiple story lines is salted by the sea and the spray of tension that follows the common thread of surf fishing.
In addition to the authentic interactions between fishermen — discussions of tides, times, baits and tales — the most gripping aspect of the novel is the characterization of Roccus, a 25-year-old striped bass. “Her life was a life of great tides and currents, but this life of the moon’s tide was small; the moon was in a quarter stage, and the rips were slow to make.”
If you revel in cataloging the paper trail left by the lore of striper fishing, this book should be on your reading list.
A River Never Sleeps
By Roderick L. Haig-Brown
Lyons & Burford Publishers
Archiving a trans-Atlantic fishing life, Haig-Brown’s A River Never Sleeps sends the reader across adventures from the salmon rivers of British Columbia to the chalk streams of southern England. A lesser writer would make the effort to interweave these seemingly singular locales appear strained, yet Haig-Brown mends the floats between those of his childhood in England and his adult casting in Canada as if each were only a watershed away.
Formatted over 12 sections, one for each month of the year, the book is saturated with the possibilities a river holds at all moments. Hunting, trapping and, of course, fishing meander with the lives of mentors, friends, strangers and the broader non-human community of all the rivers that a lifetime of deliberate seeking can build. For those who believe that “perhaps fishing is … only an excuse to be near rivers,” Haig-Brown’s words will resonate like the first headshakes of a trout still too deep for you to see the flash.
Fishing Through the Apocalypse
By Matthew L. Miller
Unlike the proselytizing doom-sayers of old, Matthew Miller reminds us time and time again that the North American continent has already been through apocalypse. That the deterioration of ecosystems is not a novel event. Yet the frequency of these catastrophes does not dilute Miller’s urgency on the present crises of a warming climate and invasive species colonizing waterways. He applauds the efforts of legislation such as The Clean Water Act and conversation groups such as Trout Unlimited, which have brought waters back from the brink of collapse. He stresses that these next few decades demand a collective effort if our streams, rivers and lakes are to endure.
The cross-country narratives that thread their way through the explication of these environmental threats give even the most seasoned reader of freshwater fishing new adventures. Fly-fishing for brook trout next to an Iowa cornfield, and reeling in African and South American cichlid in Idaho hot springs punctuate this informative text. Fishing Through the Apocalypse will make you want to explore your own stretch of wild and keep it wild for as long as you can.
By Todd Davis
Michigan State University Press
“Geomorphology,” the opening poem in Todd Davis’ Native Species, paints a vivid portrait of the human and natural worlds colliding to produce an intertwined reality. It’s apocalyptic without the doom, chaotic without the frenzy, an ode to the power of nature to rearrange our lives in confusing, beautiful ways. The poem is the perfect prelude to Davis’ 89-poem collection, which traverses chestnut groves and icy rivers, puddles holding speckled trout and reservoirs that have drowned valleys.
Davis is wildly observant, and the gentle rhythm of his words places the reader in familiar landscapes made new. The poems in Native Species span seasons, but themes of death and new life make it particularly compelling to read in winter, that time of quiet, contemplative darkness. — Krista Karlson