The Year of the Angler and the Year of the Trout
When I got this book to review, I was just about to leave for a week's vacation in Maine. The first time I opened it up was on Ogunquit Beach, with my feet snuggled in the sand, the sun beating down, and a heavy surf crashing not far away from my chair. It's not easy to imagine yourself being someplace else, when you're exactly where you want to be, but that's exactly what happened when I started reading. Steve Raymond is a remarkable writer, and I was whisked away across the entire width of the continent to the coastal Pacific waters where he would chase steelhead or sea run cutthroat trout.
Ok, I will admit this, it wasn't easy to feel the chill of a winter steelhead river when I was being slowly baked to a medium well doneness in the summer sun, but a quick dip in the frigid Maine coastal waters always helped with that.
This book actually started off as two books, as the title would suggest. I was afraid at first that the publisher just crammed these two books under one cover, as has often been done with other re-issues, but I was more than pleasantly pleased to see that Steve Raymond actually added new text to the books to bring the stories into the 21st Century. Each book has a completely new introduction for the 2005 edition, where he updates us on the states of some of the waters he fishes, as well as the state of his own being (is anyone getting younger as the years pass?). I don't know who made the decision to include this material -the author or the publisher - but I applaud whoever it was. Bravo. Nicely done.
The subtitle of the book actually tells you all you need to know - "Tales of Fly Fishing, Rivers, Environment, and Life". Well - I guess that's not quite all you need to know. You should also know how well written those tales are. The reading is easy, but not too easy - if you know what I mean. It's not "high prose" that takes an experienced palette to appreciate - it tastes good at the first swallow. I enjoy reading that has a conversational tone, as if the author is sitting next to you and telling you the story, and that is exactly how many of these stories feel.
I've read a lot of books where the author seems to be very eager to impress the reader either with his skill, or knowledge, or abilities. You won't get any of that here. That Steve is an experienced and accomplished angler, I have no doubt, but you will not be slapped in the face with that fact in his writing. There's no conspicuous name dropping. No super human feats of angling skill. No globe trotting to one exotic destination after another. No false modesty or corny self deprecation. No. This book is chock full of honesty and integrity - tales of real fishing, real rivers, real fish, and real people. It has a very intimate feel to it - as if Steve is sharing with you some of his innermost thoughts. Sometimes the reading is heavy. Not always - but enough to occasionally make you pause, put the book down, and stare off into the distance for awhile. It's the kind of reading (and writing) that sticks with you awhile.
Many reviewers with far more credibility than me have heaped praise upon these two books over the years. There is nothing that I can add that hasn't been said already. If you don't own a copy, here's your chance - two for the price of one. If you do, buy a copy for a friend. They will thank you for it.