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"Land of Little Rivers, A Story in Photos of Catskill Fly Fishing" by Austin McK. Francis scores a Global FlyFisher Global Class mark in Bob Petti's review. Read about the book whose beauty is only exceeded by the majesty of the subject.
Austin McK. Francis,
photographs by Enrico Ferorelli
Land of Little Rivers
Beaverkill Press, New York, 1999
Hardcover - 279 pages
Cover Price: US$60.00
Available directly from the publisher or from your favorite book dealer.
Having spent the last ten years of my life living within day trip range of the Catskill mountains, I was most excited at the opportunity to review a book documenting this famed region. Having felt the magic of the Beaverkill firsthand, I knew it would be a tough assignment for any book to capture its essence. How excited I was when I encountered this passage by the author in the introduction:
"For the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Algonquians, Manitou inhabited the Onti Ora, the Mountains of the Sky, here in the Catskills. Manitou is a supernatural power that permeates the world, possessed in varying degrees by both spiritual and human beings. I know this is a bit strong for many of us, but it was out there for
them and it is still out there. I believe it is this power - call it passion, dedication, committment, vision, love, or what you will - that has inspired the myriad fly fishers who in small ways and large have created, fought for, and extended a great sporting tradition in a hallowed land, and I respect the honor of presenting them, their feats, and their little rivers in these pages"
Anyone who has walked along the shores of these rivers and not been touched by those spirits hasn't been paying attention. I knew from the introduction that this was going to be a special book, that the book was written by a man who can articulate the feelings of many, who is not just voicing the thoughts of others but offering us a personal view of the Land of Little Rivers through his own eyes and heart. Fantastic.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I was surprised in many instances. The first suprise was the opening chapter, which documented the origin and development of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center. What might seem otherwise out of place, the pictures and short narrative about the purpose and vision for the CFFC&M was perfectly appropriate and I applaud the author for taking the time and space to pay homage to a collective labor of love of so many. To say the book is beautiful is a disservice. The photographs of Enrico Ferorelli span the pages and leap out at the reader, grabbing your attention. His work is augmented by the photographs of many others as well as classic works of art. When I first opened it, the brightness and quality of the photographs reminded me of the books by Paul Schmookler and Ingrid Sils whose books have set a very high standard.
Land of Little Rivers is separated into three parts, Rivers, Tackle, and Heritage. The discussion of the many rivers of the region is obvious given the title of the book, but other chapters were quite a pleasant surprise. For instance, there is an entire chapter devoted to the wonderful flies that have come out of the region. There are also chapters devoted to rods and reels, Theodore Gordon, the development of the Catskill hatchery system, the private angling clubs that the region is so known for, including The Woman Flyfisher Club, and others. Mr. Francis managed to cover a broad spectrum of topics with ease.
The chapters devoted to the major rivers are preceded by beautiful artistic maps done by the author which show not only the river in question, its tributaries and major pools, but also some of the surrounding points of historic interest. The maps are also available separately from the book as frameable pieces of art. Accompanying the photos of the rivers, both current and historic, is a running history of angling along these rivers starting as far back as recorded history will allow. To read about access to the upper Beaverkill in the mid 1800's is to appreciate how easy we have it today, but it also evokes a bit of envy at the secluded and untamed wilderness that this region once was.
The old cliche says a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me conclude with some of the beautiful pictures contained within the covers of this handsome work. I'm confident that you, too, will recognize the impact that the Catskill rivers have had over these two men.