Fly-fishing writings from mystery novelist (Close to the Bone, 1996, etc.) and Field & Stream contributing editor Tapply that are his "way of exploring what all those hours on the water have meant.''
Tapply became a fly-fisherman as a child in eastern Massachusetts, using his father's hand-me-down flies and one he'd invented to resemble a wide variety of eastern spring hatches, the "Nearenuf.'' A lot of his early fishing took place at the Old Res, an abandoned reservoir where he boyishly wanted to believe there was something besides sunfish and crappies. But he also spent time at Walden Pond: "Thoreau shacked up there,'' he writes a little scornfully. And he has no use for those devotees who "drop a pebble onto the cairn and think Transcendental Thoughts.'' Worse are those "animal fanatics'' at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and their "anti-fishing crusade.'' He shrugs off as laughable their arguments that fish are traumatized physiologically or psychologically by being hooked and taken out of the water. Fish should be killed, he says, "swiftly and humanely, taken home, prepared elegantly and eaten respectfully.'' Tapply is in safer--and pleasanter--waters when he sticks to fishing and reminiscing. He offers sage advice on how to hook kids on fishing: Keep it simple; bait their hooks and unhook their catch if they're reluctant to; don't make it into a "lesson.'' Tapply expertly and entertainingly writes about fish, from the bluegill ("may be the perfect fish'') to the Atlantic salmon (the "fish of a thousand casts''--a conservative "measure of the investment required to hook one'') to fly-fishing for striped bass ("maybe the fastest growing sport along the northeast coast'').
If fishing "continues to shape and define'' him, it's made him into a dependable, interesting expert with a nasty backlash.