The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing

Bloomsbury. Mar. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781635573077. $28. NAT HIST
For some people, fishing is not just for food or competition: it is compulsory. Writer Kurlansky (Salmon) and others are driven towards the challenge and beauty of fly fishing. To better understand this fervor, the author gives a comprehensive history. Every piece of equipment—fly, rod, reel, line—has their own chapter. The book cites various authors, poets, thinkers, and political figures throughout, as well as Kurlansky’s own experiences of fishing all over the world. Back matter includes an appendix of rivers mentioned throughout. Kurlansky’s fans will enjoy sharing his passion. But unfamiliar readers may struggle to stay interested with the verbose text. Also, while the book recognizes the troubling “fraternity” past of fly fishing, it doesn’t offer solutions. Fisherwomen, who get their own chapter, are praised for their accomplishments throughout time. There are more women in the fly-fishing community today, but they might find the book off-putting due to lingering attitudes, such as how “there is something feminine about casting flies.” Native Americans are referenced several times as a group who distrust fly fishing, yet no references are attributed. Also, some readers will be distressed by repeated use of a slur for disability and disabled people.
VERDICT The author’s love of fly fishing is obvious, but this latest book is for limited audience.
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