I would like to start by affirming that Robert Reid’s fly angling memoir Casting into Mystery offers my favourite reading on the subject.
His poem ‘Wild Speck,’ which opens the book, got me hooked. In evocative language, he describes brook trout as a ‘savage beauty.’ This conjures memories of rivers I have fished in southern Ontario, for what is arguably the most beautiful freshwater fish.
Yet the book is about more than fly fishing. It’s about the interconnection of all living things. Reid writes lovingly about the contemplative sport as a metaphor for life. We often fail, but we have incredible moments of joy, especially when experiencing the Zen of fly fishing.
While reading the book my pen was constantly in motion. So much of his recommended reads need to be explored. Holy Water by Jerry Kustich comes to mine, as does Trout Fishing by Joe Brooks.
When I learned to fly fish reasonably well, it was apparent to me that fly fishing is an art form; however, I’m not able to articulate this fact as well as Reid when he writes, ‘The practice is a craft that approaches art when executed at the highest level. Like a pen, burin or guitar, a fly rod is a creative tool, an instrument of imagination.’
For bamboo purists there’s a section on spit-cane rods. If art is your passion, there’s a chapter on Canada’s most famous painter, Tom Thomson, who also happened to be a fly fisher, as Reid argues persuasively.
Casting into Mystery is adorned with wonderful engravings executed by Wesley W. Bates, which could not have been done any better.
Reid writes, ‘Fishing is like love—it’s the ones that get away that cut the deepest, that leave wounds festering so they never completely heal.’ However, most of the book is about the joys one experiences while wading a river and casting a fly into mystery. It doesn’t get any better than that. If you are a fly fisher, Casting into Mystery is a must-read. It’s a welcome addition to the long-storied history of books about the recreational sport. Dave Barry, a fly-fishing enthusiast with wide knowledge of the visual arts and a member of the Hamilton Area Fly Fishers & Tiers