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My book obsession
I have always been very fond of books, and fly fishing books have almost become an obsession for me.
If I turn my chair 180 degrees as I write this I will see my fly fishing bookshelves, which do not comprise a whole wall in the room but a fair part of the shelves on that wall. I haven't counted my fishing books, but a quick estimate is that I have about 250-300 fishing books.
I still remember the first few books I bought back when I started fly fishing. Mainly Danish titles, among them a handful of classic volumes on sea trout fishing. One by Danish author Jan Grünwald is still one of my favorite books of all times.
But the number of Danish titles was (and is) fairly limited, and I soon dug into the English language book market on fly fishing and fly tying. And I have been digging ever since. I still get tempted every time I see a bookshelf at a show or in a fly shop, and sites on the internet listing title after title at convincingly low prices, have me clicking "add to cart" more than ought to.
Why buy books?
You might wonder why I buy books. I'm an Internet-person if there ever was one. I'm constantly on the web, know my way around and not only do I consume quite a bit of web content, but I also produce a lot - for this site and many others. And I make my living producing web sites for companies and organizations, so I for one, should endorse using the web rather than some old-fashioned, dusty printed-on-dead-trees medium.
Most information I need can be found online, and I rarely have to resort to encyclopedias or other printed matter to find facts. Most of it can be found with a few taps on the keyboard.
I feel about books like I feel about magazines: the sense of having something physical between your hands. The ritual of opening and leafing through the pages. The different approaches: front to back, skipping, systematically, through the index.
And the visual qualities. Most books - and magazines for that matter - are printed in a very good quality, and looking at text and pictures printed on paper is simply something that I love.
And not least the feeling of owning! Owning as in possessing a physical object. I also still buy CD's, DVD's and even vinyl records.
Just call me old fashioned...
More than anyone needs
And yes, I know... I really don't need all these books. I'm not a professional, not a researcher, not a librarian whose job it is to read and handle books.
I could easily do without my library.
But I would miss it.
I often run my eyes over the many titles, pick out one and simply go through it, remembering the first time I read it, some place or incident connected to it, the place that I bought it or whatnot and maybe reading a selected passage or savoring some of the images.
My books are more than paper and ink.
A couple of examples.
Float Tube Magic
Patricia C. Pothier's Float Tube Magic is actually not a very good book. But I clearly remember buying it. I was on a business trip to Seattle, and was located in a hotel on the outskirts of town. I did as I have done so many times: grab the local phone book and check out flyshops in the area. I found Swallow's Nest, an outdoors shop, which seemed like my kind of shop. Looking at a map I judged that it was within walking distance, a few blocks away, and set out for a stroll.
But I forgot to take into account that
1) I was in Seattle and Seattle is a big city where blocks are huge, and distances more suited for car drives than walks.
2) I was in the US and pedestrians in other places than the town center are rare and sidewalks almost as rare.
I got there and clearly remember a very nice shop where I spent most of the afternoon, and managed to buy all kinds of stuff that I definitely needed... the float tube book and an excellent Sct. Croix rod among them.
This was many years ago... like many! A bit of research tells me that the shop closed in the late nineties.
Sierra Trout Guide
Another clear memory is Lisa and Ralph Cutter's Sierra Trout Guide, a beautiful little book that I bought while visiting the store Truckee River Outfitters in Truckee. That shop unfortunately also closed.
But we were in there during a fishing trip in the Sierras looking at flies, picking up tips from the staff and just browsing, and then Lisa Cutter stepped in and offered some advice. I had just been looking at the book with her name on it, and now I simply had to buy it!
The odd thing is that while my book has Ralph Cutter's signature, I didn't buy the book before she had left, and never got her to sign it while she was there. Duh!
My fondest memory of Truckee is actually not the book, but the fantastic diner where we had breakfast (or was that lunch?). I think it was a rebuilt train wagon, and I only have a single image from the inside, but the place made a lasting impression - tightly coupled to the book, which is again tightly coupled to the whole trip.
La mosca ahogada
This book is something else. It's a beautiful book with some really beautiful flies in it shown in some very beautiful images.
The story is again based on a business trip, this time to Madrid, that centrally placed, large, hot, buzzing Spanish capital. I had been roaming the squares, the parks and the side streets with a couple of colleagues, eating tapas, dried ham and other Spanish delicacies and we were fully enjoying the beautiful city. Madrid has almost a quarter million "aligned trees", tree lined streets in other words, and the largest green area per inhabitant in large cities in the world.
Well, I digress (see what I mean about books making you recall memories?).
We found a large department store called Fnac, and entered. I was drawn to the book department, and there was actually a fishing section, albeit very small. But this book caught my eyes, and of course I had to buy it. The book was 3,700 pesetas. This was before the Euro. That would be about 22 Euros or almost 32 US$, which was fairly expensive, considering that we're talking a small, paperback with just 110 pages, but I didn't care. This was my perfect souvenir, and looking through it as I am right now, I must say that it's still a very fascinating book with lots of strange and beautiful flies shown in very beautiful photographs.
It seems like it was planned to be the first in a series. The subtitle is "Artesania leonesa de la pseca, 1", which probably translates into something like "The Leonese art (craft) of fishing, 1". Inside the book it says "en preperación: La mosca seca, Ninfas", which definitely means "in preparation: The dry fly, Nymphs", but I doubt that I will ever be able to get my hands on these... if they were ever published.
This article was actually sparked by an Internet-foray finished just minutes ago. I frequently look at Paul Morgan's fishing blog on the web site of Coch-Y-Bonddu Books, the charming Welsh book shop, which is almost equally tempting online and in real life.
If you ever pass by Machynlleth do not pass by the book store! It's a fantastic store, stuffed with books (literally!), and if you're a hunter or a cook as well as an angler, you will be in heaven. Your heart will be light... as will your wallet.
Mind you, the books are generally very reasonably priced, but there are just so many!
I just leafed through the 70-or-so web pages with bargain books on Paul's web site, and before I knew it I had stuffed UK£ 46.- or some 75 US dollars worth of books into my cart. I occasionally do this just for fun, mostly to have as a kind of "wish list" and to sit and drool over the many nice pages that ought to be on my shelves and not the shelves in the Welsh shop.
Not as soon as that was done, I clicked the elusive Checkout button, and was transferred to Paypal and back and the books were, much to my surprise, ordered!
Well, to be honest I wasn't that surprised... it's not the first time this has happened, and even though I try to convince myself (and my wife) that it's a compulsion, which I can't control, that isn't quite true. I simply love buying books, and will now look forward to the mailman delivering that sack (yes, for some reason British Mail often deliver parcels in sacks) at my doorstep.
I can warmly recommend the bargain book list by the way. Most books are really cheap, and you will find scores of new and old books priced down to a couple of pounds or just a few dollars.
My own books
I have contributed to a few fishing books in my time. A chapter here and a snippet of text there. A fly pattern, a few pictures. I've also been approached by publishers a couple of times and urged to write my own, but never felt like going through the arduous process of planning, writing, proof reading, editing and all the other tasks involved. The time from idea to printed book seems endless, and the publishers I have been involved with in connection with non-fishing books have generally been a pain to work with, and not fueled my desire to try more.
But a while back I started doing my own books anyway. But on my own initiative, in my own time and up to my own level of ambition and quality. It's fun, and the results until now have been quite good, if I may say so... and I may since the books are mine, and this article is too.
These books haven't been bestsellers by any measure (you can help change that here), but I didn't make them to sell them. I made them for my own sake, and as gifts to friends, and seen in that perspective, they have been huge successes.
I need order
One problem about having books in the number that I do, is order... or in my case lack of same. In the beginning when I had few enough, I knew the physical placement of each title. I had no system, but just remembered what I had and where it was located. I still remember almost every book I have, but locating it is a chore. I mostly recall the physical shape and color of the back, but often have to run my eyes over the shelves more than once to find it. Sometimes I fail, and have to carefully read the title on almost every book until I find what I need.
Some kind of order would be nice. Alphabetical could do it, but grouped by subject would be more like it.
I'm also very generous when it comes to lending out my books, but not very good at remembering who borrowed my things. I rely on people's honesty to give them back to me, but that has unfortunately cost me some books over the years. A register would be really nice. I have been looking at some kind of automation, where books can be tracked using bar codes or ISBN-numbers, because the thought of manually registering all my books is not a nice one!
Well, some rainy day I might sit down and create such a register.
Right now I'll just read and look forward to my package from Wales.