Book Review: Fly Fishing Northern New England’s Seasons by Lou Zambello

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Lou Zambello with a steelhead from upstate New York.

I have heard it commonly said that there are more books written about fly fishing than all other sports combined. Mind you, this is always said by fly fishermen, and often by the literary among them, and so I take it with a heavy grain of salt. And yet there is no shortage of writing about fly fishing. If you search Amazon for fly fishing books, you will find over 14,000 results. Isaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler — his 17th century celebration of fly fishing — has alone been published more in more than 300 editions, putting it behind the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare as one of the most published work in the English language. Our shelves, and our web pages, teem with fish, even if our rivers and lakes don’t.

And so it is that Lou Zambello begins the introduction to his newly published Fly Fishing Northern New England’s Seasons not by celebrating his subject, but by justifying why he’s written the book at all. After enumerating a few reasons, he writes: 

I was also struck by how little is written about fishing New England compared to the western states. How many books and articles have been written about each “famous”  piece of water in Montana such as the Yellowstone, the Madison, the Livingston spring creeks, and the Henry’s Fork, just to name a few? How little, in comparison, has been written about fishing any of northern New England’s great salmon and trout waters. A few books have appeared recently, so perhaps the trend is changing. Hopefully this book will augment other efforts.

It was this very observation that lead me to create this site — a site devoted entirely to topics related to fly fishing New England. It’s my hope to compliment efforts like Lou’s, by providing regular, multimedia-rich updates over the coming years. And it’s my belief that if you are here, reading this, you are interested in both Lou’s book and, hopefully, the topics on this site.

My inclination to enjoy Lou’s book began with these words in his introduction. They only developed further as I read more. Lou has the resume of a true Mainer: he’s fished New England for over 30 years, been guiding for over 12, and worked at L.L.Bean for 14 years (I too worked there for a summer, many years ago). This experience is evident in his writing: he speaks from long-standing experience as a fisherman. This experience is especially evident in his chapters on the Rangley area, where Lou summers: here the detail of his recommendations, and his enthusiasm for them, become are at their best. The rest of the book is helpful, but I’d recommend the book for these sections alone.

If you buy this book (and there are only 10 on Amazon as I write, so grab one quickly) it’s important you know what it is, and it isn’t. This isn’t written by a Norman MacLean protege. It’s well written, to be sure, but these are not stories; that the book began as a series of annual notes the author wrote to himself to prevent forgetting what he had learned is evident in both the structure and the observations. Most are practical recommendations, and few are philosophical. Lou has a goal for each chapter, and he stick to it — a quality I appreciate.

This also is not a book about all of New England: half of Massachusetts is left out (with the Deerfield and the Swift rivers being included), while all of Connecticut and Rhode Island are absent. But for a short call in the introduction for catch and release and for conservation, this is not a book that takes up politics or issues related to conservation. In New England, this would be easy to do, but the author steers well clear. This also is not a book filled with color-plates of fly patterns, or photos of beautiful places. Like the other books in this series by Wilderness Adventures Press, there are nice black and white photos throughout, but nothing fancy. This is a book I will keep on my shelf, and throw into my waterproof duffle when I head North.

I’d recommend you do the same. For the avid New England fly fisherman, this book will make a good addition to those already-stocked shelves.

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