The trout has a brain the size of a pea. This makes it a worthy intellectual adversary for most fly fishermen, including Lyons, a former English professor and the author of five previous fishing books. Despite his elegant prose style and his years spent pursuing trout, Lyons is as flummoxed and enchanted by these creatures as are the rest of his brethren.
In Spring Creek he has written a luminous memoir of a month spent in flyfishing paradise. Located on an unspecified river flowing through an unnamed Western state, this secluded stretch of private water is filled with wild, superwary, if not downright paranoid brown trout—some seemingly approaching canoe size. The angling is tough here. But Lyons is guided by fishing buddy Herb, a sort of Zen master with a fly rod. As Herb teaches him stealth and finesse, the writer illuminates his surroundings.
Although Lyons tends to muse on the likes of Kafka and Cezanne, the book is anchored in fine observation: "You always see the birds first, in rivers, on salt water, they are the great harbingers of feeding fish." (That is a flat-out truth.) And there is humor. At one point, when he falls into a muskrat hole and nearly breaks his ankle, Lyons realizes that, rather than becoming one with his surroundings, "it might be better lo become two with nature." (Atlantic Monthly, $20)