Sunlit Riffles And Shadowed Runs: Stories Of Fly Fishing In America

Hardcover | November 30, 2012

byKent Cowgill

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Ranging from the riotously comic to the nostalgic, edgy, and suspenseful, these sixteen stories offer richly developed and engaging portraits of characters across the spectrum of life, all absorbed by the thrill of fly fishing. A marriage betrayal on a trout stream in the north woods, a young boy’s coming of age as a fly fisherman in the Black Hills of South Dakota, angler rage on the redfish flats of the Gulf of Mexico, an epic quest for bullish rainbows in Montana’s celebrated Bighorn, the quiet mystique of Wisconsin’s Brule River, the intensity of combat fishing on a salmon pool in the Pacific Northwest, these are just a few of the fascinating tales of fly fishing offered in Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs. Rendered in sparkling prose that will resonate with every angler, this collection will also delight any reader who enjoys outdoor pastimes.

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Ranging from the riotously comic to the nostalgic, edgy, and suspenseful, these sixteen stories offer richly developed and engaging portraits of characters across the spectrum of life, all absorbed by the thrill of fly fishing. A marriage betrayal on a trout stream in the north woods, a young boy’s coming of age as a fly fisherman in t...

Kent Cowgill was the recipient of Fly Rod & Reel’s Traver Award for distinguished fiction in 2010. He is an avid outdoorsman and widely traveled writer whose stories have appeared in such publications as Gray’s Sporting Journal, Field & Stream, The High Plains Literary Review, Trout, and The Atlantic Salmon Journal. He has authored thr...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:170 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.8 inPublished:November 30, 2012Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299289109

ISBN - 13:9780299289102

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Riffles and Shadows of Life Do you ever wonder why people fish with fur and feather instead of hard tackle or live bait? It’s not because you catch more fish. Maybe it's the greater challenge. Perhaps it's the graceful arc of the cast or the opportunity to tie flies on long, cold winter nights. It might be because of the heritage and history of fly fishing. Maybe it's a combination of all of these. Or perhaps the reason lies in deeper waters. If I'm correct in this assumption, I suggest you won’t find the reason by reading outdoor writing or sports journalism. Rather, you must drift your fly on the waters of literature: in the riffles of the novel, the eddies of the short story, the pools of poetry. This notion is based on my assertion that fly angling is not really about fishing. It’s about life, it's about death. If you are a Doubting Izaak (Walton), you might want to check out Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs. Published by Terrace Books, an imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press, the collection of stories by Kent Cowgill makes a convincing case for fly angling as a metaphor for life. Like dappled sunlight on a river, fly fishing captures and reflects the full spectrum of human experience: its joys and sorrows, expectations and disappointments, happiness and regret, gains and losses. Cowgill is emeritus professor of English at Winona State University. He has published three books including Raising Hackles on the Hattie's Fork and Other Tales of Mishaps and Misdeeds While Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods. An avid outdoorsman who lives on a trout stream in southeastern Minnesota, his outdoor stories have appeared in Gray’s Sporting Journal, Field & Stream, Rod & Reel, Trout and The Atlantic Salmon Journal. Subtitled Stories of Fly Fishing in America, all 16 offerings concern fly fishing. Cowgill, however, approaches the narrative waters as a creative writer (obliquely, circumspectly) rather than as a angling journalist (directly, immediately). A quartet of randomly selected stories provide a sense of Cowgill’s methods and effects. The opening story, "Day of Mourning," is about three longtime fly fishing buddies who gather at the funeral of their companion. The deceased has bequeathed a Payne fly rod to the survivors, accompanied by a challenge. The vintage, split-cane rod is to go to the first of the three who catches a 12-inch brown trout with a rickety fiberglass relic, also owned by the deceased. The contest must take place on a nearby stream on the day following the funeral, which happens to be in the dead of winter. "Two Men in a Museum," which garnered Cowgill a 2010 Travers Award, tells the story of two unlikely strangers who meet in a museum in New York City. A middle-aged historian recalls the time he fly fished for salmon in Scotland, many years before, when he was a graduate student in Michigan. Although he failed to land the giant salmon that took his fly, he remembers the occasion as “the worst day of my life. And yet somehow, even then, one of the best.” Although the retired Wall Street lawyer confesses he has little use for fly fishing, he is left with “a sense of profound loss and regret beyond his capacity for denial. What he didn’t understand was why. The simple story of a lost fish. Something as trivial as that. Yet his heart was filled with sorrow and his eyes swam with suppressed tears.” Described as “a story about longing and isolation,” "Valentine" tells of a young soldier from the Pacific Northwest stationed in Nebraska. Wanting desperately to spend day leave fly fishing, he makes his way to the Snake River, where he enjoys a glorious outing of trout fishing. Having no drinking water with him, he is thirsty beyond belief. He stops at a derelict farm, only to encounter a lovely, young woman who offers him a mason jar of water, provoking a fleeting intimation of “mad desire.” In "The Conception" a steelhead fisherman is casting in "a fabled Canadian River" when his thoughts turn to the vacations he spent in the Black Hills of North Dakota, and to a fateful summer when he was 13, and made the irreversible decision to switch from night crawlers and salmon eggs to a Royal Coachman, thus establishing a pattern of deep delight for the rest of his life.  Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs is about the illuminations and shadows of memory as much as it is about fly fishing. As such, the collection is a river of linked stories that shows us how the past is ever present in the moment when a fish accepts a fly and time stands still. Every fish we’ve ever caught, not to mention all that eluded the net, exists in the Eternal Now.
Date published: 2014-02-13

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Two Men in a Museum
Day of Mourning
The Conception
Spanish Fly
The Devil's Arse
Last Cast
Indian Summer
Labor Day
The Rod
Season's End

Editorial Reviews

“[Cowgill’s] ability to relate places—as well as personalities—is on par with the best fishing writers in the craft, past or present. . . . Cowgill does much more than take you fishing: He immerses you in the culture.”—Trout Unlimited