Monday, November 15, 2010

Streamside Reading: The Habit of Rivers

The Habit of Rivers: Reflections on Trout Streams and Fly FishingNote: Now that I am finished with school, I am purging my mind of all academic texts by re-reading some of my favorite fly fishing books. Consider this the first in a series of reviews as I remember why I loved these books in the first place.

Several years ago my sister gave me a gift certificate to Angler’s Inn (in Salt Lake City) as a Christmas present. Some people are down on gift certificates as gifts, using strange logic such as “gift certificates are too impersonal,” or “why don’t you just give them cash?” As someone who spends most of their time lusting after gadgets, books, and fly rods that I cannot afford, I say to those anti-gift-certificites: why must you attempt to ruin everything good in the world?

I used my gift card (thanks, sis) to purchase Ted Leeson’s The Habit of Rivers. And as I re-read it recently I found myself reading with a pen and marking up my edition with notes and underlines. Leeson was an English professor (and still may be) and his mastery of his native tongue shines through. Some of my favorite passages:

On steelhead fishing:
“There are advantages to being self taught; the quality of instruction is not one of them.”
On winter fly fishing (this is timely):
“Everything—the weather, the water, the fish, the absurdly tiny dry flies in a brittle plastic box, your own better judgment, all argue against your being there. But somehow there you are, urging private folly against prevailing wisdom, leaving others to wonder whether you know a little more or a little less than they do. Which is precisely the case.”
On hatchery trout:
“In local angling circles, these trout arise a species of contempt otherwise reserved exclusively for the Los Angeles Lakers.”
And finally, just a beautiful string of words:
“The angler’s part in fly fishing begins and ends with the fly, and everything in between—the tackle, the planning, the preparations, the trip, the reading and wading of water, the casting—are all ancillary, mere vehicles for delivering the fly from vise to trout, for transferring it from one set of jaws to another.”

Leeson is a wordsmith and a philosopher. And while his roundabout style may not be direct enough for some, its just right for this old English major. I am now saving change so I can purchase Inventing Montana: Dispatches from the Madison Valley, which just might help me survive the long winter.

1 comment:

  1. The Habit of Rivers was just a terrific read, it's one of my favorites. I found Inventing Montana to be a different type of book; I enjoyed it too, but found it a more challenging book. I look forward to hearing what you have to say when you get around to reading it.