Fly-fishing enthusiasts turn a lazy fishing town into a madhouse as they try to become the first to snag an ugly trout for a big reward in this playful, good-natured insider’s sendup of the sport.
Ure (Leaving the Fold, 2000, etc.) previously wrote a fly-fishing memoir, but his first attempt at fiction is a community love note to the craziness that the fishing hobby can induce. Jud Buckalew, a trout-fishing guide living with his pet cat, Bob, in a tiny cabin in Last Chance, Idaho, only wants peace and quiet to pursue, à la Captain Ahab, the giant old trout he calls “The Pig.” Upset that his smarmy cousin Mark Bosham—who claims a childhood spent in Paris but neglects to mention it was Paris, Idaho—has been appointed the local fishing inspector, Jud calls on his old friend Rollo Pasco, a State Department employee, and asks him to send frozen samples of a hideous, fanged trout created in a failed gene splicing experiment. Jud convinces Mark that the fish are a new species found in the river, and Mark puts out a $50,000 reward for a live specimen that he could send for genetic analysis. The town residents and fish-seekers are broad caricatures—the crazy naked environmentalist, the older bass fisherman with a priapic medical condition, and the two guys who are amusingly depicted in their home environments as they catch the fish frenzy and try to hide their fishing adventures from their wives. But character interactions are often stilted and shallow, particularly the rapidly developed romantic relationship between Jud and Suzanne Hsu, visiting NBC reporter and “oriental mirage.” This struggle to make his characters play believably against one another means that even when all their stories come together at the river, the farce never really reaches a satisfying peak before scattering back into its component parts.
Fishermen will love this book for its attention to detail and for seeing the humor in their obsessions, but a more general audience may not quite get it.