The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life

Scribner. May 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781982152505. $26. SPORTS
Adherents of fly fishing will find much to like in this latest book by Coggins (Men and Style). He describes coming to the sport through two grandfatherly types who took him under their wings when he was a young man. Coggins’s ardor for the sport has found him fishing for brown trout in England, Atlantic salmon in New Brunswick, and bonefish in the Bahamas, among others. Along the way, he shares the quiet triumphs and discoveries that he arrived at through fly fishing. This work transmits the message that success in the difficult sport of fly fishing—like in any other pursuit—requires a combination of steadfastness and a willingness to alter your techniques. In chapters that offer a meditation on both fly fishing and nature, Coggins considers the way they overlap and inform each other. In each fishing spot he visits, he contemplates the natural history of the area and how it has changed over time.
VERDICT A lovely, ruminative book about a venerable sport; it bears comparison to Adrian Smith’s Monsters of Rivers and Rock. Coggins’s enthusiasm for fly fishing is so infectious that the book will readily hook non-fishers as well.
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