view counter

Can’t Fish When the Wind Blows?

Sublimate with these book-and-movie combos

      As evening approached, the wind outside was violent, relentless and threatening, not to mention preventing my sporting pursuit. Arming myself with a flashlight in case a falling tree took out our power, I readied an adult beverage, placed it on a nearby table and picked up my always reliable antidote to such a nuisance.
      The first few pages of virtually any essay in The Longest Silence, an angling novel by Tom McGuane, has always lured me into an excellent humor. As I drifted off into another much more interesting and far less threatening world, I relaxed despite the roar of the wind outside. Beside me on that same table sat a few other books of a marine nature to further fortify my retreat. 
       The chosen tomes, though well worn and hardly current, had an additional and very handy feature: online movie versions — assuming, of course, the power stayed on. I would like to recommend these works to anyone suffering from springtime cabin fever.
       The author of my first recommendation, Peter Benchley, once reminisced that it took him 15 years to finally realize that he had no talent for writing “but at that point I was so famous, I couldn’t stop.” His most successful novel, Jaws, is proof that, while he might not be a literary master, he is often a world-class storyteller. His 40-year old shark tale can still bring a pot to boil.
       The opening scene, both written and, eventually cinematic, impressed a lesson that many have never quite recovered from: Once you’ve entered the ocean to your knees, you are no longer at the top of the food chain. It’s an exciting read, and the subsequent movie in 1975, by 27-year-old Stephen Spielberg, has traveled surprisingly well.
      If you’ve a more sophisticated or romantic inclination, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, written in 2007 by Paul Torday, may be the answer to your foul weatherneeds. It’s based on the whimsical premise that an oil-wealthy Middle Eastern sheikh, enamored with fishing for salmon on the fly, attempts to recreate the sport in his homeland, Yemen, and enlists the aid of a British fisheries biologist.
         As preposterous as the endeavor sounds — proof that well-written fiction can reliably be more interesting than reality — the story unfolds exceedingly well. Politics and romantic interests, never prisoner to the constraints of logic, complicate and further everyone’s desires but not quite in the way intended. The movie plays as well as the book.
      My next recommendation may elicit some yawns. But should you follow through, you may be surprised. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is as recognizable a title as exists today, but surprisingly few people have read it. A novella Hem wrote in two months during 1951 while living in Cuba, it promptly won a Pulitzer Prize and became an instant bestseller as well as the jewel of his career. It also led, eventually, to Hemingway’s Nobel Prize for literature.
       The movie version, starring Spencer Tracey, is so faithful a representation of the work that it has been called the most word-for-word rendition of a book ever filmed. I’ve viewed it a number of times over the years and have never been disappointed in its truth nor its impact. 
      John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez may appeal to the more scientific among us, as it is a narrative of a six-week cruise in the waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Steinbeck, an amateur naturalist as well as a world-renown writer, was accompanied by a close friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts. They spent their time sportfishing and collecting specimens (discovering over 50 previously unrecorded species) while ruminating philosophically about the human place in and responsibility to the ecosystems. 
       The multiple-award winning The River Why by David James Duncan wraps up my book/movie recommendations. It’s a simple story that follows a protagonist who leaves the world behind in his quest for a pure fishing life only to have it complicated by, surprise, a lovely young lady. The book is well written and very readable. The low-budget movie released in 2008 is a watchable adaptation of the book made more interesting by Oscar-winning actor William Hurt and Amber Heard (Johnny Depp’s recent ex) playing two of the more major roles.
Fish Finder
The yellow perch spawn is peaking now. Anglers will continue to catch some even though the majority have deposited their egg sacks and begun to head back toward their home waters. White perch, however, are arriving in the headwaters in good numbers and will pursue their spawning runs into April. Both species are taking bloodworms, grass shrimp and small minnows presented on shad darts or small jigs suspended under weighted casting bobbers, or in deeper waters, on high-lo bait rigs.

The quote attributed to Peter Benchley is actually from his grandfather, Robert Benchley.