Literary Masters

I love reading fishing books. Even during the trout season I find a good fishing book can relax and excite me like no other written words. Somehow the process of fishing seems to lend itself very well to the art of the written word. There’s always a beginning, quite often a middle, and always some kind of end. Perhaps the most important thing though is that fishing can always be a journey. And there’s nothing like a good journey to strike imagination and hope into the mind of a reader.

One of the great things about internet fishing diaries and websites is the potential for discovering books, both new upstarts and old time gems. I’ve bought several books following recommendations from my pal Alistair over at the Urban Fly Fisher blog. One of my recent favourites is “Trout Madness” by Robert Traver.

Judging by the front cover of the book my first thought was that it would be a modern book about some gentleman from the lost youth of today. I was surprised to discover that most of the stories came from 1940s east USA, with brook trout and wild rivers and ponds forming the backdrop. Mr Traver was a district attorney in his day, and he frequently betrays the kind of eye-rolling wisdom one might imagine from such a man. His writing style certainly has a unique character quite unlike any other fishing book I’ve read. It’s honest, regularly humorous and full of lovely insights into…well, the madness of trout anglers.

Allow me to quote a couple of fine examples from the book:

“It was one of those warm, soft, luminous summer evenings; the kind that commands fishermen to go forth and then makes them yearn for time to stop in its tracks. The sky was big and high and gloriously aflame, and the fanning shafts of sunlight sifting through the far-off piles of cloud looked like the very organ pipes of Heaven.”

“As I relit my pipe and waited for new worlds to conquer I heard a mighty splash above me and wheeled gaping at the spreading magic ring of a really good trout, carefully marking the spot. Oddly enough he had risen just above where the young buck had just crossed, a little above the feeder creek. Perhaps I thought extravagantly, perhaps he was after the deer…”


  1. opax’s avatar

    Sounds like an interesting book. I ordered Bob Wyatt’s ‘Trout Hunting: The Pursuit of Happiness’ this week, mostly based on your recommendation Mike.

  2. - Mike -’s avatar

    Well Olli, I certainly found it the most interesting book on ‘fishing theory’ (for lack of a better description) that I’ve come across in a while. I can’t imagine that anyone could read it and not find something useful. Let me know how you get one 🙂

  3. Trout Underground’s avatar

    Opax: I found Wyatt’s book interesting, especially his attempts to debunk so much of what we’re force fed as “gospel.”

  4. Jim Bailey’s avatar

    Robert Traver is actually a pen name for John Voelker, a municipal judge who lived and fished in Michigan – (which you may know by now). One of the best writers on fishing I’ve ever read. He’s right up there with R.Haig-Browne.

  5. - Mike -’s avatar

    Hi Jim,

    thanks for stopping by. I gathered he was a judge, but I had no idea about the name thing. Interesting stuff, thanks!

    Must agree with you, he a very good writer, with quite a unique style.

  6. Emanuele’s avatar

    I am really glad you enjoyed “tout madness”;
    I discovered Traver in the fall of 05 during my last trip to Michigan
    fishing the Ausable with my local friend Mike P.
    One evening at the Cabin Mike gave me Trout Madness and said…”this book really captures the true spirit of fly fishing in Michigan”…that night I remember reading “the intruder”….one of the best fly fishing stories I ever read.

    PS. I gave the book to alistair a year ago…and never came back…
    it is a first edition.

  7. - Mike -’s avatar

    Hi emanuele, great to hear from you. I hope southern life is alright..

    Funny you should mention that story. It was probably my favourite one in the book. A real beauty.

    Have a nice week!

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