Sunday, July 15, 2007

Review: So Many Fish, So Little Time

The first thing that strikes you about So Many Fish, So Little Time by Mark D. Williams is its size. It is large. If it were actually to strike you you’d be advised to take the full force of the blow on your non-casting arm, as these 860 pages of the ‘World’s Greatest Backcountry Honeyholes, Trout Rivers, Blue Ribbon Waters, Bass Lakes, and Saltwater Hot Spots’ would leave you at best with some rather nasty bruising.

When out in the field, it would double as a handy tying bench.

So much for its physical attributes then, but what of the insides? Turning to the contents, one finds dozens of US states and long lists of places to fish in them. From Alabama to Wyoming, Williams provides the US based flyfisherman with time, money and a camper on his hands with endless choices. But this isn’t only America. There are also entries for Canada, Europe, South America, Asia… the list goes on and on.

Is this, then, a book that one should make (significant) space for on an already overloaded angling-related bookcase? Well, for the travelling angler, this would be a useful, first-stop resource, though it might be one to consult at home, rather than put in your carry on luggage and mess up your baggage allowance. With a quick overview of the destination, what lurks in its waters, and who to contact when you get there, this is enough to get you started.

And on top of the impressive catalogue, Williams glosses it with a relaxed, humourous style, which makes the book fun to dip into, even in sections like that devoted to the Bikini Atoll in Micronesia, where most of us will never actually go. The writer also shows us his humility. When writing about England, which we are helpfully informed is located in Western Europe ‘off the coast of France and Belgium’, Williams is happy to admit to being intimidated (as many of us are) by the English chalkstreams:

“…[they] are different enough that I’m flummoxed and wherever I’ve fished them, I’ve come away with a few landed fish, and a healthy respect for those who fish them regularly…”

And one suspects that Mark D. Williams isn’t actually an American after all when he says:

“One thing I found (ed. thought?) when fishing Europe is that, in typical American bravado, I could catch fish in their rivers as well as they could. Nope. Wrong. Can’t do it. That’s why these guys from England and France and the Czech Republic and Poland and Portugal win these world fly fishing championships. They are damned fine fly anglers. If you think that on our home waters we’d whoop ‘em, well, you’d be wrong. They go to American waters and they kick our butts there, too”.

For the armchair-angler who likes to gaze longingly at glossy photos, the black and white artwork here is a disappointment. Money would be better spent on the sumptuously produced Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die by Chris Santella. So, overall, unless you are planning the world tour, and especially if you are planning to visit the US, there probably isn’t enough here to grab Europe-based attentions. Despite the fact that, in Williams’ words, ‘Fly fishing was born here and if you fly fish, that ought to be reason enough to fish England’, we still get less than three of the 860 pages.

To be fair, the book is marketed at the American audience, and they will find rather more to play with. And of course, everything is bigger over there. They are bound to have bigger letter boxes to handle the book’s girth, so there will be no falling out with the post man. And inside their bigger houses, there is surely space to erect more accommodating bookshelves too.

Buy it from Amazon