Actually, Maxwell (former natural history columnist for Audubon) knows very well why she swallowed the flyfor the rapt feeling of connection with her homeplace, the outdoors, and her departed fatherand she tells her tale with both levity and flair.
Maxwell has always liked to fish but had preferred saltwater fishing, savoring the briny serenity of the ocean. Then she got caught up in the hyperkinetic world of fly-fishing, an "Attention Deficit Syndrome . . . with hooks," the art of matching an invisible hatch with a fly tied to an invisible leader in pursuit of an invisible fish, a sport requiring "raw skill, and instinct, balance, strength and concentration undilute." Her mentor and nemesis is Guido Reindhart Rahr III, whom she met on a fishing trip, a whim, to Outer Mongolia's Sharlon River, hard by the Siberian border. Back home, together they explore the Deschutes River, getting to know both the fish and the "grand, green Pacific Northwest." Maxwell is a serious fly-fisherwomanshe wants to know how to make the throw, how to read the waterbut her eye is forever roaming the scenery, to which she gives substance on the page: hawk-colored shoulders of basalt, "the drizzled, chilled elegance that turns fishing water into champagne," the Pacific Northwest's malachite beauty. Her thoughts range about, taking in quantum electrodynamics, the reportedly diminishing sperm count of late-20th-century men, her father's face, which she sees in the skyall of which provide a wild tangibility to her nature and the mysteries of fly-fishing. Equally entertaining is the parade of oddballs she meets, like Len, who'se only endearing qualities are dyslexia and a bad haircut.
A nifty collection of fly-fishing vignettes, the happy result of ignoring "the ghostly voices of fly fishermen past, begging me to take up stamp collecting."