Much-praised nonfiction author Frazier (On the Rez, 2000, etc.) gathers together 20 years of musings on fishing in one slim but entertaining volume.
In “An Angler at Heart,” fishing-tackle expert Jim Deren defines the essay’s title phrase as describing someone who understands “the call of the wild, the instinct of the hunt. It’s a throwback to the forest primeval.” Frazier makes no claim to this distinction, but his profile of Deren and his shop, the Angler's Roost (closed for about 20 years now), makes vivid the great passion fishing can inspire and provides a touchstone for the entire collection. The mostly short essays find Frazier awaking before dawn in Brooklyn to make it to the Jersey shore in quest of stripers, sweating in his chest waders as he battles through clouds of black flies in search of trout in the Adirondacks, and breaking through underbrush to get to just the right deep pool. Throughout, he describes his surroundings and relationships. “Fishing Without Dad” is a sweet riff on Frazier’s softhearted father, who hated it when Ian actually managed to hook anything. “On Urban Shores” is as much a portrait of the wilds of Manhattan as it is a story about catching a fish. “Five Fish” shows the author attempting to play casually with his kids at the water's edge before he is driven to drop them off at home and race back to the river, shaking with the need to get to his favorite angling spot in the lee of a fallen cottonwood tree. Through it all runs the rill of self-deprecation and light humor so necessary to the fisherman's sanity in this solitary and frustrating pursuit.
A must for literary fishing enthusiasts; a pleasant diversion for the rest of us.