Allah does not deduct from man's allotted time those hours spent fishing," goes an ancient proverb about a pastime which is as much a spiritual exercise as it is a sport. This may be why good writers who like to fish often lavish their best talents on their favorite sport.
Edward Weeks, retired editor of The Atlantic Monthly, is no exception. His new book, Fresh Waters ($7.95, Atlantic-Little, Brown, Boston), deals mainly with fly-rod fishing for trout and salmon, but it is far more concerned with esthetics than with techniques. "In fishing as in love," writes Weeks, "there is the innocence and surprise of the first rapture and the joy, more deeply felt, of renewal."
For much of his adult life Ted Weeks listened only half interested to the wild-eyed banter of friends concerning rods, rushing streams and leaping fish—subjects which, he recalls, "sounded to me as mysterious as sex but not nearly so much fun." Finally, goaded by the anglers, on a June evening in 1938 he found himself in a boat on Massachusetts' North River, fly rod in hand. A school of small striped bass arrived, and 30 years of sweet madness had begun. "Love is pictures," he writes of the experience, "and my mind's eye was to hold thereafter my initial exposure to that swirling power underwater which called out something latent in me.... A single vision is enough for most converts."
Fresh Waters is plainly a paean to angling—a 30-year odyssey of wild fish taken from beautiful waters. Those who love the sport as Weeks does will understand when he writes: "I doubt if I shall ever outgrow the excitement bordering on panic which I feel the instant I know I have a strong, unmanageable fish...on my line." And they will learn the wisdom that 30 years on the water can teach. "I know that the hot blood has cooled and that I no longer reckon in terms of how many or how big," Weeks confesses. One of his most memorable moments is the pursuit, capture and release of a two-pound 10-ounce native trout from a tiny brook in a remote Cape Cod cranberry bog.
Despite occasional moments of dark concern over the future of the nation's streams, Fresh Waters is filled for the most part with a special kind of joy and silent wonder that readers will find easy to share. Years ago, explaining what the Northwest Miramichi meant to him, Weeks prophetically summed up what he has made an underlying theme of this book: "the feeling of privacy so rare in our urban life, the absence of litter and waste, the reassurance of unchanging natural beauty."