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Our Favorite Fishing Novels
What’s the next best thing to spending a day on the lake (or an evening of eating what you caught)? A great book about fishing. Sure, you can spend all day scrolling articles online, but there’s something particularly special about cracking open an actual book. There are a ton of fishing books out there, from literature to “Bass Fishing for Dummies.” From British texts written before the Industrial Revolution to modern American fishing classics, many authors have written countless pages detailing the finer points of angling.
"A River Runs Through It & Other Stories," by Norman MacLean
Many remember the classic movie with Brad Pitt, but this book is for the fishing lover, with nearly one-third of the book describing the particulars of fly fishing. The novella and the stories are mostly about fly fishing, pre-industrial logging and the genesis of the United States Forest Service. MacLean comments on the natural world and human nature through his close descriptions of things beautiful and tragic. For him, fishing was an art.
"The Old Man & the Sea," by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was, among many things, a fisherman. Many of us can relate to protagonist Santiago's struggle with defeat. Some days, your lures get hung in the weeds. You settle into your favorite fishin' hole, and the fish have other plans. Even though this pithy little novel is as much about the mortal struggle as about how to catch a prize-winning marlin, Hemingway's love of the fishing life in all its grittiness rings true without romance. Fishing isn't just some hobby. It's a way of life.
"Moby-Dick," by Herman Melville
Let's be real. Many of us didn't read the book in school. Maybe we read summaries or skimmed through parts of it. Moby-Dick, the novel, is elusive in a way similar to the titular whale. While this book does explore in detail the world of whaling, Melville created a masterwork that scholars have devoted careers to. Let's face it. Sometimes you've got a lot of time on your hands, especially if the fish aren't biting, so maybe bring Melville with you on your next solo trip and dig into some of Captain Ahab's whale mania.
"The Compleat Angler," by Izaak Walton
Originally written in 1653, Walton's "Angler" is an academic read, but don't let that stop you. This book has rich meaning because it's one of the earliest records of a fishing tradition in English literature. While the politics of the book are informed by 17th century British politics, Walton's love of pastoral scenes gives us glimpses of a life that is now time out of mind. Walton includes some information about tying flies and using bait, so the book isn't just a historical artifact, it does have some practical value.
"The Lord of the Rings," by J.R.R. Tolkien
Did you know that fishing is an essential plot device in LOTR? Tolkien's whole saga hinges on the fact that a little guy named Deagol and his brother Smeagol (Gollum) went fishing one day and one of them hooked a neat little prize: a gold ring. That's right, without fishing, the quest for the Ring would have been nothing. And much like fishing, Tolkien's work is a fun rabbit hole. Once you start in, you never know where you'll end up. Who doesn't love a little fantasy?
If all this talk of fishing has put a hook in you, drop by Carhartt before your next trip to pick up a fishing vest and other essential fishing gear.