Gone Fishin’

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Those who consider themselves avid fly fishermen will be delighted with Gone Fishin’: Ruminations on Fly Fishing. William G. Tapply, longtime contributor to American Angler and other trade publications, has brought together in one volume a collection of essays that describe the lore of the sport and offer some lessons on how to improve one’s ability to catch a variety of species. The book consists of twenty-seven short vignettes, a brief introduction, and an epilogue. All but two of these pieces appeared in magazines for which Tapply writes regularly, but reading them consecutively will provide readers a sense of how pursuing one’s passion can give special satisfaction and zest to life. Like the best sports writing, Tapply’s work combines detailed explanations of technique with humor and insight into the kind of people who pursue fly fishing as more than a casual pastime.

There is also something in Gone Fishin’, however, for those who are not hooked on angling. Tapply’s stories offer advice not only about picking a stream or tying a fly, but also on the delicate human relationships that everyone must negotiate in the many roles people play: father, son, husband, friend, professional colleague. For example, his account of a fishing trip with his son at Cape Cod provides insight into the ways fathers must learn to deal with their adult children. Particularly poignant, too, is the epilogue, a tribute to his deceased father who also wrote for various fishing magazines.

When he has not been writing about fishing, Tapply has produced more than twenty mystery novels. The ability to keep readers in suspense required of mystery writers has served him well in his non-fiction. Many of the tales in Gone Fishin’ keep the reader wondering what will happen next. Additionally, most end with an aphorism or observation that illuminates some aspect of life, making this book both entertaining and educational--qualities that have, for a long time, been considered the hallmarks of good literature.