Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Review: Changing Planes by Kathy Scott

Thursday Review: Changing Planes by Kathy Scott

Kathy Scott, author of Moose on the Water, Bamboo on the Bench, is back with her third book on rodmaking, angling, and life in the Great White North. Changing Planes is both a metaphorical title and an apt description of the book's contents. It chronicles a year in the life of the Scott family, including her rodmaking companion David, her beloved dog Kodiak, and a host of characters great and small from Michigan to Nova Scotia.

What this book is about is a matter of perspective. Some of the most endearing passages, and those that will certainly interest a large number of fishermen, deal with her first attempt to build a split bamboo fly rod. On this theme, Scott accomplishes the exceptionally difficult task of making the technical aspects of rodmaking both interesting and understandable. Most of all she makes it sound fun.

In a sense, then, this is also a book about fly fishing, and it is certainly true that the dedicated fly angler will find much to enjoy. From the joys of fishing a split cane fly rod to her restrained descriptions of Atlantic salmon fishing in Canada, one is never more than a few pages from the water, so to speak, even if it is a frozen beaver pond in the dead of a Maine winter.

But what I think this book is really about is Nature. Like other great writers of this genre, Scott makes Nature (with a capital "N") into a living, breathing character. Thus, the narrative is framed by the passing of the seasons--by life and death and by birth and renewal. You will follow the author as she experiences sorrow and loss just as you will as she finds joy and happiness. The book--like our most seamless days--ebbs and flows naturally.

From this perspective, Changing Planes is mostly about Scott's search for that most elusive of all human things: contentment. For Scott, as it should be for all of us, contentment is not defined as satisfaction with the status quo, but rather as being happy with who you are and what you stand for as a person. It is about finding your groove, from the planing bench to your circle of friends to the cosmos at large. Whether it is her passion for conservation that leads her to take an executive post with the local Trout Unlimited chapter, her ebullient appreciation for the skill and patience required to make a fine split bamboo fly rod, or the simple joy that comes from the contented sigh of a happy pet, one gets the feeling that her metaphysical quest was not in vain.

You'll learn along the way about such things as overlooked rodmaking legend Charlie Wheeler, about the problems facing the Atlantic Salmon, and as with all of her writings, about the tight-knit community of contemporary bamboo rodmakers. But most of all, you'll hear an author who has found a distinctive voice and for whom life (and writing) now comes naturally.

Changing Planes is one of those books you will put down only with the most contented of sighs.

Changing Planes ($24.95) is available in hardcover from the Alder Creek Press, as are all of Kathy's books. Their home page is

-- Dr. Todd

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