ROYAL COACHMAN by Paul Schullery


The Lore and Legends of Fly-Fishing
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Schullery (Searching for Yellowstone: Ecology and Wonder in the Last Wilderness, 1997, etc.), an inveterate ferreter of fly- fishing’s deep past, serves up more arcana and opinions for the sport’s devout. What allows Schullery to rise a cut above most fishing writers, aside from the fact that he writes with grace and brevity, is his deflationary tactic. Not only is he interested in discovering what he can about the origins of piscatorial verities, but he also delights in disemboweling the folderol passed off as eternal truth by the sport’s self-appointed guardians. This can range from the question of who qualifies as a trout bum to whether or not it was Dame Juliana Berners who wrote the 15th-century “Treatise on Fishing with an Angle.” It can mean learning who might have been the first to wet a horse-hair line in the Letort Spring Run, or who invented the dry fly and where it was first fished, or why building a great bamboo fly rod is a craft and building a great violin is an art. When it comes time for Schullery to venture a few opinions of his own, he wears his erudition lightly. He knows well the “charms of studying the evolution of a great fly pattern,” invests the changing of the body material on a Hendrickson dry with Darwinian import, and explains why a band of scarlet silk turns a humble coachman into royalty. And he is one of the few fishing writers who know enough to let a place—the Battenkill, for instance—keep its mystery, who know that no degree of dissection will reveal its soul. In a literature so abounding in snobs and reverse snobs, Schullery comes like a blast of fresh air, an iconoclast with an inclusive spirit that Whitman would have admired.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84246-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999