In Land of Little Rivers, Austin Frances brings over 30 years of Catskill fly fishing history together with the rivers, equipment and the personalities that have made flyfishing and the Catskills what they are today. His credentials in the world of Catskill fly fishing are second to none with such classic works as Catskill Flytier (coauthored with Harry Darbee-1977) and Catskill Rivers (1983). He is a consummate story teller who has been blessed to have been born in a time that reflects the history and the personalities surrounding our fly fishing heritage.
This is no ordinary fly fishing book. This latest work from Francis is a stunning photographic portrait of one of the greatest treausures we have right here in our own backyard. Once you begin reading and taking in this historical and relevant portrait of Catskill fly fishing, you begin to realize just how precious and delicate a resource we have. In the authors own words, “...call it passion, dedication, commitment, vision, love, or what you will-that has inspired the myriad fly fishers who in small ways and large have created, fought for, and extended a great sporting tradition in a hallowed land, and I respect the honor of presenting them, their feats, and their little rivers in these pages”.
The photography in this book is as magnificent as the prose which gently works it way through the book. World-renowned photographer Enrico Ferorelli spent more than five months dedicated to providing photographs that are both beautiful and inspiring. His treatment of our Catskill rivers and the surrounding mountains is what makes this book like no other book you can find on the topic of Catskill fly fishing. Austin Francis himself had to decide which of over 13,000 photographs would be published. His ultimate choices are nothing less than inspirational. It is by far the most complete collection of historical photographs that this writer has ever seen assembled.
Francis covers the rivers where American fly fishing was born. Rivers such as the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Neversink, Esopus, Schoharie, and the Delaware are given their due in both the photography and words. On the rivers, “Like the humble mountains whence it flows, the typical Catskill trout stream has been created on a personal scale that intensifies the feelings of privacy and intimacy with nature so prized among anglers”.
I was particularly intrigued with some of the stories surrounding the flies I have tied and used for over two decades. On one of my favorites, the Coffin Fly, Francis writes, “The actual story on this fly is that Walt’s (Dette) friend Ted Townsend had just come from a funeral when they sat down at the vise and began tying a new pattern for the spinner of the Green Drake. In a moment of funeral wit, in keeping with its black-and-white austerity, they named it the Coffin Fly”.
Francis also has a fascinating way to give rare glimpses into the lives of some of the men and women who helped shape the existence and growth of American fly fishing. People like Theordore Gordon, Hiram Leonard, Edward Payne, Roy Steenrod, Art Flick, Elsie & Harry Darbee, Walt & Winnie Dette, and the one and only Sparse Grey Hackle. Francis gives us an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of many of these classic Catskills figures and more. On Theordore Gordon, he writes, “He arrived on the scene when Americans were fishing only wet flies and the English were going through a dry-fly revolution. In having brought about the juncture of these two great traditions, Gordon established himself as ‘the father of modern American angling’.”
From the grand Catskill rivers to the first “Woman Flyfishers Club” and beyond, Austin Francis has skillfully crafted a book that captures the complete history of our own beloved Catskills. It’s certainly to be a one-of-a-kind book that will be the crown jewel in the library of anyone who has had the opportunity to walk and fish in the heart of our own backyard, the Catskills.
Land of Little Rivers: A Story in Photos of Catskill Fly Fishing by Austin McK. Francis (New York: The Beaverkill Press, 1999) 279 pp. Available from the publisher: 212-721-4580 or check our on-line books section for other purchase options.
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