Book Review–Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher’s Love for Living Water
I received a copy of Chris Hunt’s book for Christmas, which wasn’t entirely a surprise given that I sent the specific link to my kids with very clear instructions that if they wished to appease their father, they would see to it that this book ended up under the tree. My kids rarely listen to me, but this time they did and for that I am grateful. FYI, here is the link I sent them which produced results: Get the Book.
Before we dive into all that I liked about Shin Deep, I feel I should divulge a little background about me, as a reader of books. I’ve always enjoyed a good book, and I really enjoy a good book when it has something to do with fly fishing. And it used to be that I was a rather compulsive reader. By that I mean that reading would throw my life out of balance: when I started a good book, most everything else in life would be neglected until I’d finished the last word (that neglect included things such as personal hygeine and basic nutrition). However, time changes a person and I have discovered that in recent years I’ve mellowed a bit when it comes to my voraciousness as a reader of books. Actually, I find that I’ve become more easily distracted by myriad other things in life, and thus am not good at taking time to sit down and finish books that I’ve started. As an example, I have
5 4 fishing-related books in a stack that I have every intention of finishing, some day. And I will get to them, eventually. Hey look–a squirrel!
Such was not the case with Shin Deep. While I did not compulsively tear through the book in one sitting, I did set aside time to read at least a couple of chapters each night and I got through the book in short order. My dog, Eddie, also gave his early approval of Shin Deep. I fact, he literally drooled over it. You see, Eddie has a certain affinity for eating kleenex and toilet paper. He must like the soft texture, or the fact that when he passes it there’s no need to wipe. At any rate, I had just recently begun wading into Shin Deep and was using a square of TP as a book mark (what–doesn’t everyone?). One evening while Mrs. UA and I were out to dinner, Eddie decided that my bookmark would make for a nice snack. Upon returning home that evening, Shin Deep lay on the floor next to the coffee table. The cover appeared to be slightly water-damaged (from canine saliva) and the edges of the pages bore the gentle teeth marks of a particular chocolate Lab. To his credit, Eddie is very soft-mouthed and was therefore remarkably gentle as he extracted the bookmark. Luckily I had dog-eared the page where I’d left off in my last session and was able to easily resume reading.
The author takes us on an intimate journey to a wide variety of destinations that span Connecticut to Montana; from West Virginia’s Potomac River to Henry’s Fork in Idaho, Hunt writes in an easy manner that makes one feel as though they’re sitting down over a frosty beverage around a campfire, listening to him tell stories. Each chapter is a personal reflection of a particular outing delivered without a hint of bravado. Hunt is not attempting to impress with awe-inspiring tales of catching trophy-sized fish in far off and exotic locales, but rather he shares his thoughts and appreciations for all that makes fly fishing so enjoyable, in places the average angler can imagine themselves fishing. From catching 7-inch brook trout in Appalachia to admittedly posting up on a pod of rising whitefish during a snow storm on the Snake River, Hunt reveals something about himself: he’s just an average Joe. In Hunt’s defense with regard to the whitefish, he proclaims, “some of them were respectable fish.”
I was particularly able to identify with Chapter 6: Prince of Wales, in which the author confesses to doing something
I’ve never done we all have nightmares about. While on a trip to Whale Pass in Alaska (which is apparently a long way from any fly shop) Hunt leaves his fly box behind and must go on a quest for replacements. His recount of having to scrounge for the only available flies in town is worth the price of admission ($14.95, with a 20% off code if you hurry); the sense of desperation to find any fishing flies emanates vividly from the pages and I felt as though I were right there with him (laughing). After snapping-off every fly he was able to scrounge up, Hunt ends up fishing a rusty orange Rapala lure that he finds only after nearly sitting on it. Good stuff.
What becomes apparent in the book is that Hunt absolutely loves fish and fly fishing. At the beginning of Chapter 3 the author recalls an exchange between he and his wife as he is preparing to leave on a trip in the nation’s capitol. While the trip for was business purposes, Hunt was keenly aware that he would be only 90 minutes from Shenandoah National Park and it’s native brook trout waters:
“You’re traveling to the cradle of the Republic, and you’re going fishing?” my wife asked, as I tucked a four-piece three-weight into my suitcase. “You’re pathetic.”
Amen to that.
In addition to being an author, Chris Hunt is an award-winning journalist and keeper of the Eat More Brook Trout blog. When he’s not doing all of this, or fishing, Hunt is the National Communications Director for Trout Unlimited.