A Fishing Book

I love my river. I can tell you that. Each year there are days when the Miramichi shows its greatness — its true greatness — once again. And each year on the river, once or twice, I will meet men and women with a fire of generosity in them, of love for others that God required old prophets to have.

That’s from a book I bought recently for $1.50 at one of those clearing-house bookstores. Lines on the Water: A Fisherman’s Life on the Miramichi, by David Adams Richards. Original retail price: $21. Nice. I wonder how much of my $1.50 goes back to the author. Probably nothing.

Rivers like the river described in this book have become scarce. I used to fish whenever I could, but now I don’t even think about. Most rivers are empty, fished-out or polluted or both.

As a child I had the idea that trout were golden, or green, in deep pools hidden away under the moss of a riverbank. And that some day I would walk in the right direction, take all the right paths to the river and find them there.

In fact, trout, I learned, were far more textured and a better colour than just golds and greens. They were the colour of nature itself — as naturally outfitted in their coat of thin slime as God could manage. They were hidden around the bends and in the deep shaded pools of my youth.

I think I’m going to read this book, and then send it to my father when I’m done with it. He grew up next to a big river. He can probably relate to it better than I can.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

4 Replies to “A Fishing Book”

  1. When I was a kid I used to sit on the acequia footbridge behind my grandmother’s house in Taos, during the month or two it actually had water diverted into it, with a little toy fishing rod and a plastic hook in the foot of snow-runoff water. I really thought I’d catch a fish someday. I didn’t understand it was just an irrigation ditch.

    Last summer I was walking up the street here in Seattle and in the drainage ditch with six inches of water in front of a row of houses I saw a 7″ trout dart into a culvert. The ditches drain into a creek system here which is full of small trout and very, very infrequently admit a returning salmon that doesn’t die from the lawn fertilizer, antifreeze, oil, and pesticides. Somehow completed all those days of “fishing” for me.

  2. I finished reading the book last night. It won the Governor General’s Award, but I’m not sure why. It’s a nice book about fishing. If you’re a fly-fisherman or woman, it’s probably worth a look. Or maybe the opposite is true: If you’ve never gone fishing, read this book and it’ll take you there. But I’ve gone fishing many times, maybe not as much as David Adams Richards, but enough to not be surprised by any of the things he describes in this book. By the time I got half way through it, I was ready to put it down. I finished it only because I hate not finishing books. I definitely wouldn’t want to pay original price of $21 for it.

    However, it’s not all bad. The opening chapters are evocative, the language flowing and calm (yup, like a river). It’s good reading. But it’s like watching a fishing show. The woods and the rivers and the fish look great, but after watching someone catch 4 or 5 fish, you kind of get the picture. He talks about other things — meeting a bear in the woods, fishing with his dog, building fishing camps along the river — but overall it doesn’t make for a compelling narrative. It’s all very nice, but 100 pages would done the job just as well.

    It isn’t a bad read, but it’s probably better not to read the whole thing at once. Put it beside your favourite chair in the TV room and read a chapter from it whenever you have nothing better to do. Let it take you to the river, but don’t stay there too long. It’s a pleasant diversion.

    I’d love to fish on the Miramichi. Sounds like a wonderful river.


  3. What’s a “fish”…you mean these mythical creatures live in rivers? Yeah unfortunalty this is probably a query my children will be having with their children….

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