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The New York Times has called James Prosek "the Audubon of the fishing world," and in Fly-Fishing the 41st, he uses his talent for descriptive writing to illuminate an astonishing adventure. Beginning in his hometown of Easton, Connecticut, Prosek circumnavigates the globe along the 41st parallel, traveling through Spain, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Japan. Along the way he shares some of the best fishing in the world with a host of wonderfully eccentric and ...
The New York Times has called James Prosek "the Audubon of the fishing world," and in Fly-Fishing the 41st, he uses his talent for descriptive writing to illuminate an astonishing adventure. Beginning in his hometown of Easton, Connecticut, Prosek circumnavigates the globe along the 41st parallel, traveling through Spain, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Japan. Along the way he shares some of the best fishing in the world with a host of wonderfully eccentric and memorable characters.
"May the tablecloths be dry," my father said when he dropped me off at the bus station in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I had heard the expression from him before, and it sounded to me now as almost a clichéd metaphor for good luck -- when the ship is pitching in a storm the steward wets the tablecloths in the dining room to keep the plates and silverware from sliding off the table. As a former merchant marine my father liked to speak about the journey.
It was early December and it had begun to snow.
I was catching the bus to JFK airport, then flying to Savannah to board a freighter to Valencia, Spain. As I stood on the platform, a navy blue overcoat, a slim figure within, caught my attention. Peeking from beneath the hood of the coat was the face of an attractive girl. She followed me to the back of the bus and seated herself across from me, looking somewhat distressed.
"Excuse me," she said, addressing me with a half smile. "Do you know, is it possible to have money wired to the airport? I left my wallet in Guilford down the coast, and there is no time to turn around and get it."
She had saved me from trying to speak to her first. "Where are you going?" I asked her.
"To France, where I live," she said. Her cheeks were flushed like ripe persimmons. "And you?"
"I'm going fishing along the latitude of my home."
"Oh," she replied. "I like to fish. I feel about fishing the way I feel about Turgenev, and all things I know about the country."
The bus began to move.
"Why were you in Guilford?" I asked.
"My father lives there. I grew up in Guilford, but my mother is French. I moved back to Normandy with her when they divorced."
"I don't know your name," I said, "I'm James."
"Yannid," she responded. "But where are you headed?"
"To Spain, then Italy, where I plan to spend Christmas with a friend. I'm coming to Paris in the New Year to meet a fisherman."
"Rouen is only one hour to the northwest by train. Don't stay in some cheap hotel room, stay with me."
"Be careful," I said, "I may take you up on it."
"It's not an idle offer."
She took some paper and a pen out of a small brown leather bag and flattened her blue coat to make a platform for writing.
Yannid Browne, she wrote, 23, Eau de Robec, Rouen. "I'm a student of medicine at the university in Rouen," she said.
The bus labored through New York traffic and at last stopped at the airport terminal. Yannid stood up and got off, wishing me a good trip, and I wished her one.
My plane from New York landed on time in Savannah, Georgia. I spent the afternoon walking along the Savannah River looking for fish, watching the pearlescent currents swirl. It smelled of both the city and the sea.
I boarded my ship at Garden City Terminal the next morning, accompanied by the port manager, Michael Tomlin. We walked together up the tall stairs of the container ship to its deck. It was there I met Ulrich Günther, the captain.
Dressed in his heavily starched white shirt with bumblebee epaulets, Günther sat us down in the ship's conference room and reviewed my papers. He and Tomlin spoke informally between business matters.
"Join us in the mess at seventeen hundred for dinner, Michael, will you?" Captain Günther said.
"No, thanks, sir, I'm going home to spend time with my wife."
"I wish I was with my wife," Günther said and took his black mustache between his forefinger and thumb.
"We're puttin' up the Christmas tree," Michael said, licking a chubby finger. His face looked fresh and tubbish beside the lean and weathered Günther.
"Early, isn't it?" Günther asked, "or is it a fake?"
"It's a fake one."
"Oh," said Günther, looking down at the papers. "Last year we bought our Christmas tree in Portland, Oregon; this year it will be in La Spezia, Italy. We will spend the holiday in the United Arab Emirates, which I don't like very much."
At dinner, as the only passenger on the 750-foot freighter ship, I was instructed to sit beside the captain. We could hardly hear ourselves over the din of machinery working to unload large steel containers filled with cargo. Loud metallic booms and bangs echoed throughout the ship. Sometimes the cranes screeched under the weight of a container and bellowed like a whale song; sometimes the raucous bangs sounded like a Dumpster full of raccoons.
At breakfast the next morning I met the ship steward, Kokoria. He introduced himself when he came to serve me my eggs and ham. He put down my food and orange juice on the checkered tablecloth and extended his chubby hand. "I am Kokoria," he said.
That afternoon, under the guise of delivering tea and butter cookies, Kokoria came into my small cabin without knocking.
"I am from Maiana Island," he told me, putting down the tea on the table where I was reading. "It is part of the Kiribati chain in the South Pacific." I found the purple aloha shirt he wore amusing. He licked his fingers like he had just been eating a cinnamon donut -- his balding head with kinky strands of hair looked rather like a coconut. I put down my book and laughed a bit.
"You are happy, sir?" he said. "Where are you from?"
"I'm from New York," I replied, assuming he would not know where Connecticut was.
"I have butter cookies for you too," he said, looking at me. He took an interest in what I had been reading. "Good book, sir?"
"It's the Odyssey. You heard of it?"
"No, sir, I cannot read." Kokoria sighed. "But I am learning. What is it you do, sir?"Fly-Fishing the 41st
Posted November 20, 2011
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Posted December 16, 2009
No text was provided for this review.