In my ways, fly fishers and fly fishing are a lot like cooks and cooking. There are trained and certified professionals, part time hobbyists, celebrities, long honored traditions, well known recipes, several popular magazines, centuries' worth of books, and an entire industry built around the subject. Some cooks will pick up a recipe, follow it blindly, and produce excellent results to the delight of everyone who has a chance to sample their cooking. Other cooks will look at a recipe and wonder - what is baking powder, and why do I need a teaspoon for my muffin batter? What role does it serve? What happens if I omit it? Where does it come from? Did cooks always use baking powder? Are there other ingredients that accomplish the same thing? Where did "teaspoon" come from? I don't know if Paul Schullery is a cook, but I'm guessing if he is, he is better described by the latter definition. It certainly is clear from his writing that he is that type of fly fisher.
"The Rise" is Paul Schullery's latest book where he digs into many theories of fly fishing. With his typical well researched style, Schullery takes up an issue and heads to the library, figuratively if not literally. The references to books old and new are generously sprinkled throughout the book as if this was a master's thesis. It is true that the author's writing style is scholarly in that regard, but the reading is not as dry as what you might find in a post-grad term paper. At least if the reader is interested in the subject, and I figure most fly fishers will be interested.
The book is split into two parts. The first part, "How Trout Take a Fly" is not only a useful educational reference for anglers who wish to learn more about trout behavior, but it is also a fascinating overview of those who have added so much to our present understanding of the subject. It is no surprise that Halford and Skues have starring roles in this section, but there are many others as well, and Schullery takes us on a walking tour of history as he examines each author's contributions to the body of knowledge on trout behavior. In addition, Schullery provides his own contributions by sharing his study of years of accumulated fish photography, including the amazing fish near "Fishing Bridge" on the Yellowstone River.
The second part of the book is aptly named "How We Take a Fly", the "we" of course being fly tyers and fishermen. Here is where the inquisitive cook kicks into high gear, as he picks at such common fly fishing themes as the upstream dry fly, the design theory of soft hackled flies, the ancient origin of fly fishing, the contradiction of the visible hook, and many more equally interesting topics. Simply put - this is great stuff. I enjoyed every word.
This book isn't for everyone. It's for anglers and fly tyers with a genuine interest in the history of the sport, with a passionate curiosity about how the things we take for granted came into being. "The Rise" is exceedingly well research, but even better, it is a good read.