A poet and Montana-based fly-fishing guide recounts his trip to the Bahamas, where he met an aging guide who taught him about fish and life.
In a lyrical if sometimes-overblown account, Dombrowski (Earth Again: Poems, 2013, etc.) loosely links reflections on his experiences catching and releasing bonefish, the history and geography of the Bahamas, the construction of fishing rods, stories he has told his children, and the difference between fishing or hunting for sport and for dinner. At the center of the book are David Pinder and his family. Pinder, retired—or forced out because cataracts restricted his sight—from the Deep Water Cay fishing lodge, where he worked for decades, still has an instinct for where fish are hiding, one he has passed down to some of his many children and grandchildren. Dombrowski regards Pinder, whose “life seems to verge on the rare heroic” and who has spent a lifetime “pursuing not only the seen but the unseen and intuited,” with reverence. He accords Pinder’s sayings—e.g., “you go looking for this, the ocean gives you that”—mythic significance. The author is fond of metaphors, some of which strain at their seams: a bonefish tail reminds him of “a loose-fitting bracelet affixed to the wrist of a beautiful woman seated at a bar,” and the sky at one point looks like “a ten-mile-wide Rothko, the canvas on loan from an archangel.” He heads each short chapter with an epigraph from the likes of Zen master Dogen and Christian mystic Meister Eckhart, which, depending on one’s point of view, either gives his angling adventures a philosophical slant or makes them sound pretentious.
For Dombrowski, the “scarcely edible” bonefish, which he releases within seconds of catching them, are valuable simply because they are so difficult to hunt down. Some may find his demanding prose equally rewarding, while others might prefer the textual equivalent of something closer to a catfish.