Reviews

Classic Angling Praises Casting

A Fine Addition to That Small & Elite Circle of the Best Writers on Fly-Fishing

Casting into Mystery by Robert Reid, $29.95.

Published by The Porcupine’s Quill, email pql@sentex.net

THIS BOOK will make you homesick for rivers you’ll never likely fish. Its author, Robert Reid, will become an old friend you never knew existed. On the surface, Casting into Mystery is the story of ten years of the author’s fly-fishing life, spent primarily on the Upper Grand River of Ontario, Canada. It’s a celebration of all that makes us become fly fishers—the beauty of the countryside and waters we fish; of trout in general; the history; the fine craftsmanship of rods, reels and flies; companionship with like-minded people; a cold beer (or three) after a day’s fishing. And then there’s so much more. It is like a look into the author’s uncommonly erudite mind and his philosophy of fishing and life.

Reid, now retired from a career as an arts journalist and editor for several Canadian newspapers, writers: ‘A fly rod is an instrument of memory.’ And, boy, does he have some memories.

His musical tastes jump from Handel to Gordon Lightfoot in the time it takes for a couple of sips of 12-year-old malt whisky. While his writing can flit from subject to subject like butterflies in a meadow—take his thoughts on fishing distant waters versus home, or reading about places even further afield or what he carries with him fishing.

‘One of the attractions of the recreational sport is that it encourages travel to beautiful places on this Good Earth. While I have visited the Catskills on two occasions and the Adirondacks and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina once, most of my fly angling is done no more than four hours from where I live.

‘Of course, this does not take into account the thousands of miles I have logged as an angling tourist casting lines of imagination on literary waters. If only readers received frequent-flyer points.

‘The pull of memory nudges my thoughts toward the people and the places embodied in talismans I wear, cast or carry with me in my vest that enrich my experience on the water. I cherish these and cannot imagine fishing without them.’

There are chapters and essays on philosopher fisher/naturalists; Canadian acoustic music; North American art; Cuban cigars; Scotch whisky; bamboo rods; books and writers on fly fishing (I’ve already ordered a few he’s introduced me to) and, strange in a fishing book, a hypothesis on whether murdered Canadian artist Tom Thomson was a fly fisherman, as well as who actually did him in. (Artist Wesley Bates has created a marvellously macabre woodcut of the murder scene!)

Reid does, however, sometimes wade into deep waters; waters too deep for this reviewer, such as the nature of Celtic spirituality or the meaning of ’North’. To my mind, he even goes in over his head when he compares American presidents 44 and 45 by stating that Obama was a fly fisherman, Trump not. Surely, both were better known as golfers?

I suspect much of his writing and thinking is well-lubricated by malt whisky—including his thoughts on the matter. ‘I customarily prefer an Islay single malt, perhaps Lagavulin, Bowmore or Bruichladdich. On this day I was fortunate to have an Arran 18-year-old, boasting a nose of sweet orchid fruits with syrup and toasted oak, a palate of chocolate, ginger and caramelized brown sugar and a long, lingering finish.’

We fly anglers are lucky to have so many fine writers to turn to. Reid is the latest addition to the list.

Paul Curtis

— Review written by Paul Curtis, author of Fishing the Margins: A History & Complete Bibliography of Fly Fishing in South Africa

May 2021 issue of Classic Angling, the world’s largest full-colour magazine on collecting, using classic tackle & the history of fishing. Where top authors write on lures, rods, reels, art, books, fish, people & places.

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