Publishers have been turning out a torrent of angling books, so for the spring season here are some half dozen titles that should appeal to a diversity of readers.
Mark Sosin and John Clark's Through the Fish's Eye (Harper & Row, $7.95) is a fascinating account of why fresh-and saltwater game fishes behave as they do and how fishermen, with the knowledge imparted, can improve their catch. Drawing from both scientific studies and their own experience, Sosin and Clark deal with such matters as feeding rhythm, temperature preferences and sense of smell and lake productivity, and they have a knack for summing up their findings in a straightforward style. For instance, "Fish are particularly on the alert for strange, sharp sounds, especially those around 1,000 cycles that approximate the tail thump of an attacking predator." The book, illustrated with drawings and color photographs, should find favor not only with anglers but anyone interested in animal behavior.
Great Fishing Tackle Catalogs of the Golden Age (Crown, $6.95), edited by Samuel Melner and Hermann Kessler with commentary by Sparse Grey Hackle, is a look back to the palmy days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as drawn from the offerings of Orvis, Mills, Abercrombie& Fitch ("where the blazed trail crosses the boulevard") and other dream merchants of the U.S. mails. It is a campy potpourri of paraphernalia portraying frog hooks, ball-bearing trolling spinners, wooden reels, "African Steel Vine" rods and the Weedless Struggling Mouse, "a Sure Killer." Typically, one picture shows a bearded, pipe-smoking, pith-helmeted fisherman in a rowboat, using two Chubb's fishing rod holders for his lines in the water. The fisherman is also reading a book, "not," as Sparse Grey Hackle notes in his caption, "a dime novel or a Laura Jean Libby paperback but a tackle catalog. The perfect customer." The perfect book for the veteran angler searching for Rosebud.
Frank Woolner's Modern Saltwater Sport Fishing (Crown, $8.95) is a comprehensive work in scope if not always in depth. He touches on everything—surf casting, live baits, bridge fishing, the idiosyncrasies of charter-boat captains—in blunt prose. As Woolner writes, "A just-landed barracuda smells like a well-ripened garbage dump." This is 319 pages of practical advice from the Dear Abby of the seashore.
Of appeal to a different and more serious crowd is Quill Gordon (Knopf, $10.95) by John McDonald, this country's leading historian of fly-fishing. Partly a collection of McDonald's scholarly studies on Dame Juliana Berners, Charles Cotton and the sainted Theodore Gordon, the work also includes accounts of the author's angling in the Catskills and the West. The book reprints McDonald's piece on salmon flies as well as the paintings by the late Jack Atherton that appeared in the June 1948 issue of FORTUNE, long a collector's item.
Ernest Schwiebert's Nymphs (Winchester Press, New York, $9.95) utilizes years of the author's field research on the subject. He details the life histories and imitations of some 300 nymphs, the term anglers use for aquatic insects and certain crustaceans. Nymphs leaps light-years ahead of other books on the subject and is enhanced by splendid paintings of the living creatures under discussion by the author, an architect. Unfortunately, there is no plate showing the flies tied in imitation; one hopes Winchester will correct this oversight in the later printings that are sure to follow.
Art Flick's Master Fly-Tying Guide (Crown, $10) is a book that belongs in every flytier's library. Anglers who do not tie flies should buy this (along with that standard, Flies, by J. Edson Leonard) and start. The patterns range from some simple streamers and bass bugs to the delightfully complex. Among the masters who contribute are Helen Shaw, Dave Whitlock (marvelous sculpin) and Ted Niemeyer, the James Joyce of flytying. Niemeyer is so right when he advocates the use of many varied materials, "for we miss the great tradition of experimentation if we limit our approach to fly-tying in any way." One niggling question: Should not the Catskill Coiler pattern have been credited outright to Charlie Krom instead of to "an eastern fly-tyer of considerable ability"?
Kenneth E. Bay's Salt Water Flies (Lippincott, $8.95) is the sole book in a field that has grown tremendously in popularity over the last several years. Some 50 saltwater patterns are illustrated, along with tying techniques, in photographs by Hermann Kessler. Most of the patterns are simple and easy to tie, and they take fish.
A final note for bibliophiles. In the tradition of the grand gesture, the Angler's and Shooter's Press in Goshen, Conn. is reprinting, with additional material and new color prints by Charles DeFeo and Ogden Pleissner, a limited edition of 250 copies of The Ristigouche and Its Salmon Fishing by Dean Sage. The price is a classy $500. Originally published in 1888 in an edition of 105 copies of which only 50 were for sale, the Sage book is the most coveted of American angling works, and the infrequent copy that is put on the market sells for as much as $3,000. Ten percent of any profit from the new edition will go to the International Atlantic Salmon Foundation to help perpetuate the species that inspired Sage to write his classic almost 100 years ago.