Babb is undoubtedly living the dream of thousands of American men: he’s not only free to fish the rivers of North and South America—he’s paid to do so (and write about it). He opens his paean to the art of rod-and-reel during a Maine spring, when the caprice of the May weather ruins one of his elaborately planned fly-fishing expeditions. His ability to evoke the woodlands of Maine in May—the movements of the animals, the quality of the air, the clear song of the white-throated sparrow—ranks him with some of the best nature-writers in print. Anyone familiar with the great forests of the American North will recognize how canny Babb’s word-photography is, and as his narrative moves on to other fishing expeditions in Canada and later South America, his prose becomes more concrete, but no less poetic. He makes new friends and finds new fishing spots in Quebec, is awed by the beauty of Chile, and waxes rhapsodic about the little rivers he first fished as a boy in Tennessee. He dissects the joys and miseries of camping, with a sharp eye for the absurd. The clash of cultures, the rituals of mating, and the precariousness of the natural world are all carefully woven into the story as subtexts. The author’s sometimes ribald humor will not be to everyone’s taste, but his offbeat style is likely to find its own audience.
A good addition to any collection of nature-writing.