Covered waters graphic Fly fishing book reviews 

Covered Waters: Tempests of  a Nomadic Trouter
Joseph Heywood
Hardbound:  219 pp.
Lyons Press    $22.95
ISBN   1-58574-766-1
Covered Waters by Joseph Heywood

There are numerous fly fishing books on the market today recounting the adventures of one person or another as they travel across the country in search of the perfect trouting experience. Most recall how the magical trout rose to their perfectly conceived fly, over the perfect water, during the perfect vacation, with many perfectly tall tales.

Fortunately, Heywood's book goes beyond the norm here. What makes this book engaging is that he doesn't give us another trip itinerary. He offers his life's itinerary from his days as a military brat, through an air force pilot's life and on to an apparently endless middle age filled with trouting experiences.

The subject of his book isn't fly fishing so much as it is how fly fishing is the thread that connects many of his life's adventures.  Many of us experience life's adventures through being a tourist and seeing life and culture in a certain level of detail. Heywood reminds us that the life of a trouter can take one through an equally, if not more engaging, life of adventures in happiness and sadness and all emotions in between--life adventures, not touristy moments full of store fronts and market glaze.

The start of the book is ominous. In fact, the reader can be left a little dazed, wondering if he landed in a Joseph Conrad novel with a narrator recalling a meaningful past full of authorial irony, uncertain perspectives and lessons in the relationship of the past to the present, truth to justice and other profound lessons we haven't visited since college. But soon we realize that Heywood is presenting his life's story from the perspective of a hospital room following a stroke. Nevertheless, the book does carry pleasant literary touches throughout that keeps us wanting more. This isn't too surprising considering Heywood is primarily a novelist--and a very fine one.

For example, we get the sense that the trouter's river is a metaphor. A river, like life, is unpredictable or, rather, ought to be unpredictable to be interesting. Like a good life, a good river is full of mysteries and unknowns, winding in and out of our consciousness, filling up our imagination, punctuated with the occasional fish to wake us from our reveries.

You wouldn't expect a lot of fishing strategy from such a book. Indeed, too much strategy would become distracting in a book that tries to teach something else, like the value of  understanding what you are look at, the value of understanding some of the energies and currents in nature, or the need to go beyond your gear to understand better the thing your fishing for. If you asked for strategies on presenting a fly, you'd get only this reply from Heywood, that "all that matters is covering the water as best you can."

--Toney J. Sisk


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