Meandering Angler: a shared fishing gene


In his book “A River Runs Through It”, Norman MacLean, an avid fly-fisherman, wrote: “I am haunted by the waters.

I understand.

Regular readers of this column know that I can’t walk past a pond, lake, stream, river, bay, or ocean beach without wondering if there are fish there. Then I thought about how I would catch them.

It doesn’t stop there. The waters I have actually fished in often reappear in my best dreams. I prefer to say that I am seduced rather than haunted. It’s not so much a thought as a feeling. Still, I can’t help but think of fishing every time I pass a body of water. My parents told me that “fish” was the first real word that came out of my mouth. I am not joking.

How can I explain this? How do you translate a feeling? Those who have it understand themselves.

Maclean is pretty close. But recently I found another author who understands – Mark Kurlansky. He has written many great books, including the New York Times bestseller “Cod and Salt.”

I didn’t know he was a fly fisherman until I picked up his recent award-winning outdoor book “The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing” at Readers Books here in Sonoma. It’s hard for me to pass up a book on fly fishing, especially written by such a talented writer. In the opening pages, I found a passage that convinced me that he and I, and probably Maclean, share the DNA of a fishing-mad Neanderthal ancestor. I don’t know for sure because 23andMe doesn’t test for a peach gene.

But I got a clue on the second page of his first chapter when he writes, “Whenever I see a body of water, I look for fish. When I am by the sea, I follow the pattern of the birds because the birds follow the fish. When I’m on the edge of a river, I stare at the motionless glassy pools alongside the swift currents, examining the ripples that animate the surface. I always ask where the fish are, and when I think I know, I want to try to catch them.

I’ve spoken (and written) similar words to try to explain my addiction to fly fishing. He speaks my language and hooked me with the opening line of his prologue, which begins with him “Entering the Big Wood River…”

The Big Wood, which meanders through Sun Valley, Idaho, is my favorite trout stream. I spent many delightful hours there and will happily return as soon as I can. His description of what it feels like to enter this pretty little river got me there.

As soon as I finish writing this column, I will return to his book and let the feelings and images he creates take me to where I would always prefer to be. It may all be in my head, but I also feel it in my gut.

Besides “Cod” and “The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing”, Kurlansky has also published “Salmon”, “World Without Fish” and “The Last Fish Tale”, and many other books.

I have a lot of reading ahead of me.

On a more immediate note, Sonoma-based guide Patrick MacKenzie reports this week that he sees some very good floating and flying action on Lake Berryessa despite being only 60% clear. his capacity. He added that even though Lake Sonoma is lower than he’s ever seen, he still expects good action on the high seas this month. Striped bass fishing on the Napa River has been good with plenty of bait fish in the water keeping the bass active.

Patrick is an excellent guide and knows the local Napa River lakes better than anyone. If you want to have a great day of fishing near Sonoma, head to his website,, or call him at 707-721-6700. He is a popular guide and his fishing days are filling up for weeks to come.


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