James Prosek's gone fishin' in a big way. But that doesn't mean he's divorced himself from reality in favor of pastoral bliss the way fishermen so often do. In Fly-Fishing the 41st: Around the World on the 41st Parallel, the famed fishing writer loops the planet along one of its most interesting latitudinal lines, stopping in Mongolia and Japan, among other places, to find out what's biting. Prosek's search for a native trout from the source of the Tigris River takes him into militarized Serbia and war-torn Yugoslavia. The 41st also takes the young writer directly through Paris, where he finds that the Seine River, once too polluted to support life forms of any kind, now lures a quirky subculture of inner-Paris anglers who thanks to recent clean-ups on the river routinely fish there for eel, bream and silure, a catfish-like creature that grows to enormous proportions.
In one of the liveliest passages of Fly-Fishing, the American author pulls up a 50-pound silure to the amusement and applause of a Paris audience, and his photo makes it into the French press along with a story that paints him as a "tourist" catching a "marine monster."One of the many delights in Prosek's gem-laden narrative is a cast of characters from the international fraternity of the fishing-obsessed. Here you will meet Johannes Schoffmann, an Austrian baker who spends his spare hours researching the intricacies of trout. Though he is not a trained scientist himself, Schoffmann's studies are so meticulous and his travels so heroic, he has made himself indispensable to more than one university professor researching trout DNA. Here you will also meet Francois Calmejane, a French tax inspector celebrated for busting big-time tax evaders. When he is not sleuthing tax fraud in his green ostrich leather vest and Holmes-style meerschaum pipe, Calmejane sculpts giant fish and flies out of iron and fishing-related found objects like hooks and spears. Prosek falls in love with Calmejane's dark, quirky work and buys a giant trout sculpture on his last day in Paris, because, as he tells the artist, he doesn't have any choice. "I wished more things were so clear in life as a trout stream or good art," Prosek concludes in one of the verbal jewels that will make this book a hit not only with sport fishermen, but with anyone who likes to read well-written adventure. Lynn Hamilton writes from Tybee Island, Georgia.