Book Review - Why We FIsh
Real Wisdom from a Real Fisherman...
Designing and maintaining any web site is not an easy thing. It seems glamorous when you are first doing it, whether you have dreamt of a web site or just have to have one in order to effectively battle competition for your product line or the services you provide. A site like this one is a different story altogether. You have to constantly generate content, and you have to organize said content in such a way that any angler looking for any information, or looking to learn something, or trying to pass a free moment and talk and joke with fishing friends can find what or who they're looking for. Content being the challenge that it is, the rare book reviews we do are refreshing to those of us starving for stuff to talk about. When I found out that our dear friend and effective advocate of our rights to access our waters Robert U. Montgomery had written a book called Why We Fish it was hardly an assignment to read it. Robert is one of those killer writers like Ron Presley or Frank Sargeant and a guy named Mark Sosin. He writes about fishing, he writes about politics, and he writes about being outside. But in every word he pens (I will use that word till the day I cross the bridge), he imparts that magic that is the air we breath.
When we first started the site, and to a large extent to this day, we wanted to make our content simple. We wanted to talk about how to fish, when to fish, where to fish, and how to be a nice fishing partner. That latter - the building of a community of friends who love our sport - became the driving force. For all that we teach, the coolest thing - beyond a doubt - is to see how many people have met each other, and now love to fish together. We love to see people tell us about their first snook or their first tarpon, or the first time they catch a flounder, fillet it and actually keep edible meat, and fry it in a dry mustard recipe that Scott Moore gave us years ago.
Why We Fish...
But telling a story or doing a video about an effective Albright knot, or giving readers hundreds of proven spots ready for their smart phones or tables is critical. Critical and not all that much fun to do or write about. Writing about fishing with my uncle when I was a kid? I could write a story a day. If we filled the front pages with stories about how scared of falling I used to be on those slimy jetties in NJ, where dawn brought a glow in the deep mist and blackfish - the tautog whose parrot mouths could take your finger off the site would not have the readership. Or would it?
Montgomery's book is that kind of story. Dozens and dozens of them. From a list of undeniable and unalienable reasons to fish (The fish don't talk back, because my wife won't go, and Because of the Mystery is mixed in with such gems as 'to have the rush of being scared or "Because I can't talk them into surrendering") to discussions with friends like bass legend Bill Dance, the book was one I could not put down. When I do book reviews - especially for friends - I actually read them. Stuff like Ron Presley's work - providing resources to anglers wanting to fish specific regions of the state - give pages of ramps, and lists of proven professionals, and where to get off on the through way. But in there is solid knowledge based on thousands of years of Ron's fishing with everybody and anybody. But I did not pick it up, read it till I fell asleep, and fished the last page - with a solid feeling of the author's gentle view of our gentle and dangerous sport in my mind. To do this review I did my regular "Pass through" to pull the best stuff, but I was flashing through a hook I already knew.
If I hadn't known Robert and just looked through the table of contents, I might have jumped to this story. At first I thought it was about rainbow trout; the species I first actually targeted as a sport fish. The species I had bought a special rod to use; the species who are bugs I got so good at creating from feathers and string I did it for Orvis instead of having a paper route. But when I read it in order, and thought of a bird with long feathers coming from the jungle canopy and bringing its magic to guys chasing trout in the Costa Rica, I realized the rainbows he was talking about were those visions the Creator shares with anglers carrying fly rods. Or just out there being who they are at that moment. Fishing, and the magical places it often takes us, is only what it is we are doing.
The Activist Angler
I could talk a lot about the book and not be taking about the book. It is pure "uncle stories" and not a resource of accessible ramps. What it is though is a connection to the mind and heart of a guy whose involvement and background in our fishing industries and the media surrounding the industries could be a book all its own. His own website, the ActivistAngler.com, is one that needs to be in your regular reading folder if it is not already there. His knowledge of the politics and characters behind the global attempt to keep recreational anglers off the water is not matched by many. From the Magnusson/Stevens (the law that they used to keep our American Red Snapper season below 30 days) to marine Spacial zones (you cannot fish there or boat there or swim there), he could write a library about what the "environmental regulations" are really all about. He reflects his position in a chapter called "I'm not an Environmentalist" but for far more resource and research information, make sure you visit his own site.
Get the book. Whether you read it like one string of spaghetti coming our of a very tasty sauce, or you pick at it like those pistachio nuts you really should stop eating by the thirty-dollar pound, taste it. It is worth the chews, and so is anything this guy spends the time writing.
Thanks Robert, great book. And thanks for the quote from Thoreau. It says it all: Many men go fishing their entire lives without realizing it is not the fish they are after.