Dances With Sharks

Dances With Sharks

Plus, a book on staying physically 'Fit to Fish'

  • By: Seth Norman
Dances With Sharks By Dave Ames (Lodge Pole Press: 2005; www.lodgepolepress.com) 190 pp.; hardcover; $25 It's an argument worth having: Just what subjects are fair game in fly-fishing literature? Just about everything to the devotee, I think author Dave Ames would insist, and I'm with him on this. If your story is about teaching novice Mayans to become fly-fishing guides, a la "The Jaguar God" in this Dances With Sharks collection, then a discourse on how machismo influences their approach makes perfect sense to me; and I'll willingly follow from there a discussion of the politics at play--and at war--between our country and Latin America.Likewise, it seems only natural that a salmonfly hatch in "The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same" should prompt a paean to metamorphosis: "Somehow, all those eons ago, while crawling around in the rocks and mud of those ancient swamp bottoms, swimming insects with gills figured out how to grow wings and fly… " "To me, that's magic." Darn right. And from events evolving since the Paleolithic, it's appropriate to proceed to more current concerns. Prostate cancer, for example. Let's hold there a moment. Readers with differently defined boundaries may prefer straightforward tales of fish-trip escapades, or perhaps more lyrical contemplations about our sport. More power to them, but I suspect the many fans of True Love and the Woolly Bugger will appreciate another Ames book conspicuous for an eclectic intellect, deft touch, offbeat characters and humor, dead-on dialogue and fishing, of course. In Dances with Sharks our narrator returns to southern waters, visiting the Caribbean on a busman's holiday. Now an established guide in Montana, getting a bit grizzled himself, he arrives with a company of well-worn pals eager to stalk bonefish. But Ames is keeping a secret. He's full of adrenaline, all right, mostly because mortality looms, manifest in his battle with a baffling variety of a disease that may unsex or kill him. A bit distracting, that. Waves of raw fear and sudden sorrow strike even as he wanders a sun-washed flat, watching a black-tip shark hunting nearby, and musing about these ancient predators. Naturally this preoccupies Ames-the-angler only until he spots a "watermelon-sized" bonefish, which so engages his attention that he fails to spot a seven-foot bull-shark coming up from behind. The attack that follows threatens to end all worries. Time to dance. Also, ultimately, to chase dorado, play fiddle music, confess and accept the embrace of friends, laugh and cry; and, for God's sake, keep casting. Fit to Fish How to Tackle Angling Injuries By Stephen L. Hisey and Keith R. Berend, M.D. (Frank Amato Publications: 2005; 800-541-9498; frankamatobooks.com) 158 pp.; softcover; $19.95 You don't hear it often: "Poor George, laid up again by that old fly-fishing injury." Yet many Baby Boomers and more senior sorts now find themselves aching at the end of a day on the river, or even abbreviating or aborting expeditions because of serious pain. Backs and shoulders, elbows and wrists, knees and ankles: There's lots of places we hurt, and lots of reasons why, from obvious traumas like "falling on your keister" to more subtle but sometimes long-lasting afflictions brought on by excessive casting, and even the stooped posture we assume for stalking sly beasts. All those body parts and more get attention in Fit to Fish: How to Tackle Angling Injuries, a practical guide put together by physical therapist Stephen L. Hisey and orthopedic surgeon Keith R. Berend. Fishers both, the former found himself inspired to write by his own ailment, the latter after his observations of injured anglers led to a formal survey of maladies too common to our tribe. The book begins with "Pain and Its Origins," and if you flinch at that subject, note that the first subhead is "Denial," as in "All humans prove extremely capable when it comes to avoiding problems by simply turning the cheek and ignoring them as they are encountered." While this idea is central to Fit to Fish, the actual process of interpreting corporeal communications among muscles, tendons, bones and nerves can pose serious challenges, as noted in "Referred Pain," where readers learn that what we feel as a "bad knee" may instead indicate a hip-joint injury. (I winced again.) Diagnosis is critical, clearly. And while the authors provide obligatory caveats to see a doctor for certain symptoms, they also offer ample information to help us get a good idea what's going on in our bodies. To that they add and illustrate a host of treatment approaches to try, including techniques that may save a $4,000 week-long Alaska float trip, along with exercises that may prevent or reduce the problems we can expect to experience as we age. The Hunt Fly Fishing's Greatest Adventures By Scott Muelrath and Don Muelrath (Self-Published: 2005; 888-347-4896; www.ffhunt.com) 172 pp.; hardcover; $45 Five or six years ago "big picture" books often wandered my way, but The Hunt is the first I've seen for a while. It's also an introduction to Scott and Don Muelrath, father and son co-authors and photographers, who credit one Marte Muelrath for many of the shots that grace these pages. Insisting she is the "Heart and soul" of their family, they dedicate the book to her, even though "she specifically requested that her name not appear anywhere." I might have honored Ms. or Mrs. Muelrath's wish, save for the fact that brilliant images are also the heart and soul of Hunt. I believe most were taken by the Muelrath gents, save for about a dozen contributed by Dan Holden Baily, Terry Chick, Josh Frazier, Brian Geis, Tim Past, Rodrigo Sandoval and R. Valentine Atkinson, who also wrote the "Foreward." That's not to dismiss Lani Waller's intro, "Philosophy of the Hunt," or the anecdotes and essays that begin chapters on seven great game fish, along with several others such as "Salty Predators" and "Tropical Evenings." While relatively brief, each is penned with enthusiasm and appreciation: All serve as frames for the photos that follow, settings for jewels. Panoramic vistas of mountain rivers, action sequences capturing a tarpon's approach, take and explosion; close-ups of flies and fish and moments of drama in which all the world seems vividly focused. Gorgeous stuff, richly presented. And while I've never liked the term "coffee table book," I could see keeping this one close by, not just for the pleasure I'd find flipping through it, but for those occasional moments when somebody suggests they can't quite fathom what a fly-fishing obsession is all about. I'd hand it to them, with a smile. "It's The Hunt," I might say; or, wiser yet, let them see for themselves.