I have a sizable collection of fly fishing books. Sometimes I’ll review one. I’ll keep it under 500 words. Any longer and you should just go read the book. Expect slander, personal opinion, and unbridled honesty. I like both books and fly fishing too much to be nice.
I like Big Indian Creek by Dave Hughes for a number of reasons. First, it is unabashedly personal. A diary written over the course of a week-long trip is about as personal as it gets. The writing is clean, uncluttered, and thoughtful in a genuine I-have-no-one-to-impress-here way that only great memoirists seem to pull off. Second, in the first three pages I can tell that Mr. Hughes and I are sympatico, at least in our approach to packing for and leaving on fishing trips. I could do it the morning of but instead, like Dave, I’d rather stay up late the night before, get it all buttoned, and head out at dawn, whether to Big Indian Creek or a river closer to my home. The beginning of any trip is about motion, and energy, and the miles that we cover on the way to somewhere else. Dawdling can happen on the way home. Third, he ends the book by realizing that he took this trip “with a destination but without a goal”. Goals, if I can philosophize, are the bane of camping and fishing, unless the goal happens to be the destination. If that’s the case, and all you want out of the trip is to be somewhere else or somewhere new, then you’re likely going to do alright. Fourth, and finally, I have had the extraordinary good luck to end up with a number of signed first editions in my fly fishing book collection and this is one of them. I did not seek it out, I did not ask for it, but when it arrived that’s what was in the box. I feel very lucky.
Big Indian Creek makes we want to bring a notebook along with me, fish all day and then decompress and think about the day. But I’m always too scattered or too busy. I fish too long and then have to rush home in the twilight, or I sit in the campsite until dark, utterly shelled and dehydrated from a too-long day. I rarely camp alone and don’t have the quiet to really do the thing right. But maybe these are excuses.
There are few revelations in Big Indian Creek, at least none that would deserve the name. But there are fish, and quiet, and the mountains and skies above the river, and that’s all anyone would need.