Fishing's Best Short Stories - reviewed by Terry Lawton
When I first saw this book, I flicked through the contents and recognised one or two or the stories and some of the authors – PJ O’Rourke, Stephen King and E Annie Proulx are some of the “non-fishing” authors.
I then made a mistake. I read Proulx’s story The Wer-Trout. She is perhaps best-known for her book The Shipping News, which I have read and seen the film. She is not one of my favourite writers who I find difficult to appreciate and this story did nothing to change my opinion of her. Next I read PJ O’Rourke’s story Fly-Fishing. I have read and enjoyed many of his books but this is not one of his better efforts. Things did not look good.
I then started to read the book at the beginning and it was a revelation Fishing’s Best Short Stories gets off to a good start with a nice story Opening Day by Jack Gilchrist, about an angler’s obsessive pursuit of a monster trout that has eluded him for three seasons. Next up is the first of two good stories by Philip Wylie, Light Tackle and Spare The Rod. These take the reader from trout streams to Florida and the operators of a charter boat, Crunch and Des. Robert Traver’s story The Intruder has an unexpected ending which cannot be revealed as it would spoil the story. Cowboys was written by Geoffrey Norman back in 1988 but it resonates with what has been going on in the financial world over the last year or so. One of the main characters, Johnson, “was big in arbitrage” and his ending reminded me of what happened to Bernie Madoff more recently. The River God is a great story about an old man – considered a bore by many of his peers – and a young boy at the threshold of his fishing career.
The final story, Murder, by Sparse Grey Hackle, has a lesson for anyone who has ever battled with a monster and wondered if they were going to win the fight. He writes about a big trout caught by a fishing friend “it was not aware of our presence or even the fact that it was hooked, and the restraint on it had not been enough to arouse its full resistance.
“Every experienced angler will understand that last statement. The pull of a game fish, up to the full limit of its strength, seems to be in proportion to the resistance which it encounters.”
The angler won the battle but the final outcome was not what he wanted.
Fishing’s Best Short Stories was edited and compiled by Paul D Staudohar and he has written a short introduction to each of the 19 stories and included details of other books and stories from each writer. This is useful for anyone who wants to read more by authors they have enjoyed. Staudohar has produced a very good selection of stories covering a wide range of fishing experiences. The book stands-up very well in a fairly competitive field of books of fishing stories and is a very good read.
Fishing’s Best Short Stories, edited Paul D Staudohar, is published by Souvenir Press in paperback. 278 page. RRP £14.99.
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