Book of the Month March 2020

The following content is accessible for members only, please sign in.

Before entering into this month’s review, some reminders:

I invite all members to come forward with titles they would like to suggest for library purchase. The library will be making its end-of-year upgrade shortly and any suggestions are heartily welcomed!

I will again chair the club’s award nomination and selection process this year. Accordingly, I want to encourage you to nominate anyone (including yourself!) you think is deserving. Nomination is a simple process! Simply print off the form from the SFF’s website, complete it, and bring it to me at the March meeting. You may also mail it to me, Larry Ray, at 1825 W. 8th Avenue,
Spokane, WA 99204. It must be postmarked by March 11, which is the deadline for award nominations. A separate reminder will be sent to all members via email.

Fly Fishing and Related Philosophies in a Very Liberal Dose! While browsing the library’s collection, I happened upon a cover that caught my eye. The title, Late in an Angler’s Life, grabbed me because, like many, I am ever more aware that I am late in mine. The cover goes on to say “The book embraces The Life Lived in Fishing the Fly, with Observations on its Theory and History, studying its Sensational Development in Late Modern Life, including Angling Tales and Notes on Tackle, Past and Present, considering the question Why We Fish.” Well! Even for such a mouthful of a subtitle, those are stimulating ticklers and the author, Gordon Wickstrom, does not disappoint.

The cover is NOT overstated! The first half of the book examines fly fishing’s origins in the upper classes in Britain, contrasting the attitudes between the landed gentry and servants of that day with those between guides and sports today. Oddly, the author seems to favor the former, with their clearly accepted, well-defined roles. He asks why fly fishers, today, tend to look condescendingly at bait fishermen and proffers that fly fishers would do well to occasionally, as he does, go on a bait fishing outing. Other philosophical excursions delve into such issues as our obsession with fancy fishing garb, applying the adage “There is no taking trout in dry breeches” which he discovered on his second reading of Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote while visiting a Franciscan monastery in Spain. Whereupon he leads us on an examination of fly fishing’s rising popularity, especially among the elite CEOs of the business community. There’s a chapter on what Wickstrom labels “nativism,” i.e., the growing effort to restore native trouts to their original drainages at the cost of removing all non-natives.

As I got beyond the middle of the book, tired for trying to track these and other musings, I was ready to quit. Wickstrom’s prose simply required too much concentration and re-reading. Then, surprisingly, the book took a different turn! From overreaching philosophical questions and their equally ambitious answers, the author took me on a wonderful, refreshing, relatively simple discussion of the evolution of our fly fishing equipment, beginning with the flies themselves. There are wonderful discussions about the historical evolution of flies, as well as other tackle. Of particular note are the observations on lines and leaders (horsehair, gut, and nylon).

The discourse on the Catskill flies, which ride the surface film tension “cocked,” using hackle tips and tail for floatation and to clear the hook above the surface in an unnatural manner when compared to the actual insects, is especially insightful.

The chapter on spinning tackle is equally fascinating and will awaken some fond memories for some. Remember those great old Mitchell 300 series spinning reels? They were from France and many of us experienced our first real fishing success with them. Wickstrom speaks fondly of them as well.

Reading Late in the Life… will require a slow pace and a bit more concentration than does most fly fishing literature. It is worth the effort. Wickstrom’s philosophical views on our sport are challenging and provocative. The research undertaken to support his views was extensive and yielded some fine little historical tidbits. Did you know, for example, that Shakespeare and Cervantes (author of the aforementioned Don Quixote) both died on the same day in 1616? Those willing to undertake the time and effort to properly read Late in an Angler’s Life are in for an adventurous, enjoyable read.

Check it out from your SFF Library!

Scroll to Top