Individual taste in books varies as much as the favorite rod or fly.  With that in mind, we hope to review books and videos from the ever-growing fly fishing world, and share them with you.  Books will be the best of all worlds, new and old.  Many of the old books are now available in reprint, and the wisdom contained is timely today.  Others can be found in second-hand book stores, or by mail order dealers. As we find videos we feel are outstanding they will be included. Be assured, reviews are based on what we have actually read, and due to that fact, may not appear weekly.

May 17th, 1999

Shadows on the Flats
The Saltwater Images of Chet Reneson and Ed Gray
Willow Creek Press
P.O. Box 147, Minocqua, WI 54548
Phone: (800) 850-WILD, email Willow Creek Press

This is something else.

For those who have had the pleasure of fishing wonderful silvery fish in the Bahamas, this one will transport you to total immersion. The great escape! For just the price of the book, no travel agents or airline to contend with, just pure pleasure. If you have thought of going, Shadows on the Flats will give you the final reason.

Chet Reneson is probably the best known of fishing artists, and his images are more than accurate. It's the feel for the region and it's people. You maybe can't feel the screaming reel in his watercolors, but if I listened hard I could sure hear it! I wish I could say I have a favorite of the paintings in this book, but they are so good it's impossible.

There is a brilliance and intensity of light in the Bahamas, made more visible with the lack of city pollution. The whites are whiter, the blues bluer, and the shadows - ah, the shadows are deeper and even more mysterious. I suspect that is where the book title originated. I'm not ever in favor of destroying fine books, but I can picture a den wall covered with Chet's beautiful and yet very physical watercolors from this book - taking me back to Andros Island. Perhaps the publisher might consider packaging them as an adjunct to the book. I'll bet I can find a place for them!

The text is an unusual approach. The author, Ed Gray is dropped off in a wadable bay, while he sends his wife off with the guide to fish elsewhere. He wants to have a day alone on the flats. Alone to read the water, find and stalk the fish, and find the "stillness" inside his head.

Author Gray's words here: "More than for any other reason, I go to wild places to find silences, the kind that you find only there and that you cannot find even in those places unless you have been away from them. For no natural place is ever actually silent; it's the quiet in your own head that you seek, and it takes some time before you begin to hear it. First you have to let the cacophony that you have brought with you drain away, clattering off sporadically toward the horizon. And the farther the horizon, the quieter, finally, it can get."

" . . .For I have come to love not just the fish and the fishing, the the island themselves. As tangible places and private metaphors, these sun-washed limestone-and-coral archipelagoes rising thin, white and green from the indigo depths and ultramarine distances of the Atlantic Ocean have captured a part of me that wants always to be anchored to them, both physically and spiritually. I want to walk on them, even when I'm beyond their shores, so I get out of the boat whenever it's possible. No island ceases at the water's edge when you walk on your own two feet, hunting in its shallows, no ocean calls you alien . . ."

I've read many books on fishing the Bahamas, the flies, the fish, the how, the where - but nothing captures the sense and feel of being there like Shadows on the Flats. Oh, and yes he does stalk and find (and catch) bonefish and permit! But it almost doesn't matter. ~ DLB

Shadows on the Flats is hardbound, 128, coffee-table size. The price is $35.00 (U.S.), ISBN: 157223127- 0. ~ DB

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