What separates a truly amazing book from an average volume? A great book creates scenes and images that you see clearly in your mind as if you are there with the characters, a part of the story. The best writings get inside of your soul and live there, making you look at the world in a new way, as if you too went through the experiences chronicled within. By these standards, The River Why is a terrific book. The River Why is the coming of age story of Gus Orviston. Gus is a fishing prodigy who chronicles the thousands of trout that he caught in his journal. Determined to dedicate his entire life to fly fishing, as a teenager Gus buys a log cabin on the fictional Tamanawis River.
Gus soon discovers that his utopian vision of 18 hours a day on the river is mind-numbing and soul-destroying, and he begins to search for other sources of fulfillment in his life. All sorts of interesting people come into his life, a veteran of the Korean War, a philosopher and hippie neighbors. He encounters death, searches for love, and all the while tries to find a balance between finding trout and finding himself.
It is probably no accident that my other favorite fly fishing book, A River Runs Through It, is also a story about more than fishing. In his autobiographical novella, Norman Maclean writes about fly fishing in Montana. His story is also a coming of age tale about brothers, family and loss. It was Robert Redford’s movie version of A River Runs Through It that first inspired me to pick up a fly rod, because I wondered if there was more to learn on a trout stream than how to catch fish.
Over ten years later, I have become a decent fly fisherman who can catch a trout when he is not accidently standing in the middle of a pool. But I have also discovered the other sides of fly fishing, the moments of solitude, peace and connection to nature that can happen on the stream.
During the long winter months when my fly fishing rod sits in storage, I am always looking for a great new fly fishing book to read. The River Why was an amazing find. What other good fly fishing books have you read?