Sporting Books to Pass the Winter With
By Dennis Doyle
Yikes, the temperatures have once again fallen well below my level of comfort. Though my pup, Hobbes, thinks it is quite an excellent time to go exploring, I’ve got other adventures in mind just now and these frigid days will provide the perfect opportunity.
The warmth of a fire and a good book has become ever more attractive, especially since it’s now absent the guilt that often accompanies a day spent indoors.
Luckily, I’m also culpable of having acquired a number of books over the last year that I felt that I should read but haven’t yet and those are the ones that I will now pitch into for the foreseeable future.
My first book on my list is out of print but readily available on used book sites. The Shining Tides by Win Brooks is the story of a New England striped bass angler who shares our obsession with the fish; it is definitely entertaining and eminently relatable.
The next is a currently popular read from John Gierach, Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, a book focused on Colorado trout fishing. First, of course, you must forgive him his one possible flaw, he’s a fly fisherman. Once you’ve granted pardon for his worship of the long rod, you may come to enjoy his love of fresh water angling and his adventures with trout as well as our mother tongue. You may even be tempted to try throwing a fly.
Another tome I’ve decided to invest in is Sowbelly by Monte Burke. A glimpse into an element of the most overwhelmingly popular angling sport in America, the pursuit of the largemouth bass, I definitely want to give this work a chance. It is a story of the compulsive urge of a lot of sports to catch the next world record black bass and the extent to which they are willing to go to do it. The record bass was caught almost 90 years ago in 1932 by George Perry of southern Georgia from Lake Montgomery. The 22-pound 4-ounce fish has never been bettered though literally thousands have seriously endeavored to do so. It should be an interesting read.
The next on my to-do pile is an old Russian tale and one I’ve long wanted to read, Dersu Uzala by Arsenysu. The story of a true woodsman in the wilds of Manchuria in the early 1900s, it is an undeniably classic work of early ecological adventure and worthy of any effort at acquaintance. It’s long been out of print but it was once very popular, so it is still available on used book sites. Another more accessible version and the original source of my interest is the movie, Dersu Uzala, by the Japanese master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa. Well worth your time as well if you can find a streaming source.
Then there is my otherwise eclectic collection of nature and wild outdoor adventure books that I intend to reread: Beautiful Swimmers by Warner, The Longest Silence and An Outside Chance by McGuane, A River Runs Through It by Maclean, Alec Maury, Sportsman by Gordon, Out of Africa by Dinesen and West with the Night by Markham. And for the more sanguine aficionados of the field sports there are the pulse pounders Man Eaters of Tsavo by Patterson, Man Eaters of Kumaon by Corbett and Death in the Long Grass by Capstick.
Pop a big bowl of popcorn, light a fire in the fireplace, break out your favorite beverage and definitely turn off your phone. It’s wintertime in Maryland and there’s lots to read.
Fishing in the Bay is now limited to five species, catfish (blue, flathead and channel), pickerel and white perch. The cats can be caught in deep water on cut baits such as menhaden, chicken and shrimp. Fish deep and on the bottom for all except pickerel; 40 feet is a good starting point and a shell bottom is a bonus, especially for the perch. They’ll take worms and minnows. The pickerel will be up in the tribs in 3- to 15-foot depths and are suckers for a minnow under a bobber, still fished, trolled or retrieved or a paddle tail jig moved at a moderate pace at any depth. Best bets will be around any kind of structure.