Published Oct 22. 2011 - 12 years ago
Updated or edited Jan 23. 2021

Book review: Fly-fishing the 41st

Around the world on the 41st Parallel

Most people will know James Prosek for his wonderful fish paintings. In this book you get a few paintings, but first and foremost a fabulous story about a fishing adventure and the people the author meets on his trip.

James Prosek
Harper Collins Publishers
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This book is one of the best fly-fishing books I have read in a long time. One of the best books, period. And even though I do write fly-fishing books and the title contains the word fly-fishing, it can hardly be called a fly-fishing book in the traditional sense. There is fly-fishing in it and the author James Prosek is well known in the fly-fishing community, but this book reaches far beyond fly-fishing. It reaches beyond fishing as a whole and into friendship, romance, traveling and much else.
To the die hard fly angler this might sound like a turn-off, but trust me, it isn't.

I'm late to the party, I know. This book is almost 10 years old and much has probably been said and written about it already, but I just got my hands on it recently, and it's still available both new and used. And since it is a book beyond the ordinary and a fantastic book on top of that, I found that a review was in place.

The book tells the fascinating story about James Prosek's travels across the world, literally. As the title implies, many of these travels take place along a lateral line going through Prosek's home in Connecticut and through a series of unlikely fishing destinations in countries that few of us would travel to in general, and even fewer of us would go to to fish. Fishing for silure in the center of Paris. Places like Turkey, Afghanistan, Japan and Turkmenistan. The quest for the holy grayling (in Mongolia). Oh yes, there's enough adventure in here.

But Prosek's mission is a special one. He goes to catch and experience the native trout species of a whole ray of countries, and does so based on almost scientific research and with a not-quite-so scientific methodology.
Prosek travels together with his older Austrian friend Johannes, and in many cases also Johannes' wife Ida. Along with these two main characters we also meet many other people, not least a row of young women whom the company - mainly Prosek - bumps into under different circumstances. Prosek has a keen eye for women as well as fish, and while he registers, photographs and paints the fish, he woos the women, and engages in romance with them on several occasions.
The friendship with Johannes and Ida, the fishing and the romantic affairs intertwine in a very beautiful and harmonic way, all having their ups and downs, and all bringing joy as well as slightly sad or at least emotional moments.

The travels that carry all these stories and bring our protagonists around the world are no less than fantastic. In their pursuit of native and rare trout species, Johannes and James go to countries that many can't place on a map. Countries which are difficult to get to and travel in. Countries that are definitely not in any "The best nn places to go fishing".
They meet kind people, beautiful nature and native trout in most of them, and Prosek accounts in an entertaining and engaging manner for these travels where fish are caught part of them on the fly and part of them by snorkeling into the rivers and catching them with a hand net!
And due to the circumstances many of these fish are caught without licenses or even a verbal permission from authorities or land owners, and often in spite of the attention of alert wardens and riverkeepers. James and Johannes are Schwartzfischers as they refer to them selves, German for poachers.

James and Johannes are Schwartzfischers

The book is spiced with a handful of Prosek's watercolors. Absolutely a nice touch, but not really needed... not for me at least. I had most of the scenes running in full color and wide screen before my inner eye while reading. The book is a delightful road movie style novel with a great plot, lots of character development, and a host of world class supporting roles - and not least some fantastic locations.

It is definitely Global Class, and I can warmly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read some great prose - (fly-)fishing or not.

Look for the book used. It's been out for almost 10 years and is typically available for a few dollars or less than 2 £ or a few Euros. Even from new it rarely sells at the cover price. Also give Prosek's web site a visit. He's a very creative artist, and has done work in many fields apart from fly-fishing art and writing.


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