EDITORS' PICK: Friends on the Water

EDITORS' PICK: Friends on the Water

Friends on the Water: Fly Fishing in Good Company pays homage to fly-fishing bonds in the images of one of our sport's premier photographers, who's

  • By: Seth Norman
Friends on the Water
By R. Valentine Atkinson

It's a knee-jerk reaction for us, most of the time: somebody asks why you like fly-fishing, and you launch: Art, science, craft, aesthetics; wild places you visit, frequently among the most beautiful on earth; and then there's the mysterious, exquisite and violent nature of our prey. Friends? Mentors? Proteges? Fishing time with your child, father, mother or grandparents? A generous uncle, an old fellow down the street, a guide with whom your relationship has grown? Maybe you mention them-how much these good people mean. Relationships initiated by a shared passion, often with folks you would never have met, or chosen to know if you did"evolving over years, then decades. From as early as you can remember; from a chance meeting on a stream, or over a vise or beginning with a chat at a club meeting, between cases or business presentations"lasting a lifetime. Friends on the Water: Fly Fishing in Good Company pays homage to these bonds in the images of one of our sport's premier photographers, who's also chosen essays and excerpts from 33 authors reporting on a special connection-a moment, perhaps, more often something lasting, tied tight by a lifeline to which is also knotted a tuft of fly: Nick Lyons, John Gierach, Robert Traver, Russ Chatham, Norman Maclean; there are also names you might not recognize but whose experience will resonate.


BUYERS' GUIDE We rate this book for:

  • Coffee-table status
  • Photo-lovers
  • Lovers of heart-warming stories
  • Collectors
  • Gift-buyers*

Back to the images, selected to reveal what words cannot, or an alternative vision. So next time somebody asks you "Why?" add as much or little about fellowship as you like. Then, if you find as much in this book as I did, say "See here," expecting that somebody puzzled will find themselves more appreciative than they might have imagined by looking through these pages. $35.00, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, www.stcbooks.com.


Rotary Fly-Tying Techniques
By Al and Gretchen Beatty
I've always associated Al and Gretchen Beatty with fly-tying innovations, also for their good works on behalf of the Federation of Fly Fishers, like the FFF Fly Pattern Encyclopedia they edited together. The Beattys were also pioneers in the introduction-or re-introduction, really-of rotary fly-tying techniques, and now distribute two lines of vises of the seven specifically profiled and demonstrated within this book. (A dozen more manufacturers make cameo appearances in the book.) Ironically enough, no vise yet made quite meets the requisite refinements of the so-far prototype "Beatty's Brainstorm" Al hopes to someday see produced.
The book aims to teach rotary and full-rotation techniques, and in almost every chapter specifies a different style of vise-Norlander, Peak, Renzetti, et al-to demonstrate these, step by illustrated step. This is the first time I've seen all this in book form. And the reason I think that's important, I'm embarrassed to admit, is succinctly revealed in a Foreward by Bob Lay: "Today there are thousands of rotary vises in the hands of fly tiers".It is my opinion that the majority of these tyers use their true rotary vises for the same purpose I did [rocking a fly back and forth to better view the fly], or worse yet, use the vise for only one purpose, holding the hook"It will amaze you the simple techniques that are outlined here which will aid you in the construction of flies." $24.95, Frank Amato Books, www.amatobooks.com.

Shell Games
By Kirk Russell
I like a crime novel now and then, and on the relatively rare occasion when I find one that unfolds in the outdoors, I pay it close attention. Last of these I recall were from Joseph Heywood's "Woods Cop" Mysteries, in which his invariably randy protagonist fights poachers and his own demons in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, mostly in areas populated by feral crime families more ferocious and deviant than werewolf packs-not to mention smart and sometimes villainously funny. There are more than a few similarities to Heywood's characters and conflicts in books by Kirk Russell.

Shell Games is set so close to where I lived, worked and played in Northern California that I'm not sure I see it the way most readers would. Lt. John Marquez is head of a special-operations unit of California Department of Fish and Game Department based in Oakland, patrolling a coastline I haunted. Given that set of factors, I might be more inclined to engage in Russell's work than the average reader.

That said, the plot thickens for all when "regional" environmental crimes are compounded by multiple murders, as a large-scale crime ring starts eviscerating folks in a style Marquez recognizes from his violent DEA days. Then there's a bewildering snarl of FBI and local law jurisdictions, together indulging more pissing matches than the nightly contests at my last Boy Scout Jamboree".

All of which plays havoc with whatever scraps of life Marquez has left outside his job, with a wife he loves and is losing, and step-daughter slipping away into an illness he cannot comprehend. As with the better books of this kind, in Shell you often can't tell good guys from bad without a program, when there is a difference; and if a player's story isn't twisted as a helix it probably ain't true. As for the author, he's already made fans of notables in his field, from Michael Connelly to John Lescroat, Ridley Pearson and Jan Burke. $23.95, Chronicle Books, www.chronicle books.com.

Seth Norman is author of Meanderings of a Fly Fisherman and other books. He also writes the Freewheeling Fly-Fisher column on this site. He lives in Washington State.