Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review: Stream Dynamics for the Complete Fly Fisherman by Robert A. Miller

A Love Letter to a New Book

DISCLAIMER: This is a biased review. Normally, I would not review a book that I had a hand in editing and distributing, nor would I review a book written by one of my best friends. This book is an exception, and I will tell you why.

When I first got the manuscript for Robert A. Miller's new book Stream Dynamics for the Complete Fly Fisherman, available from the The Whitefish Press, I was dumbfounded. The book is unlike anything ever written on fishing; indeed, it is so good it should be a required textbook for all beginning Forestry Management, Outdoor Rec, and Geology college students, let alone any fisherman who seeks to be a better angler and a better person.

What the book is about is how to appreciate fishing by being more knowledgeable about your surroundings. Robert A. Miller knows what he is talking about; many who recognize him for his outstanding work in The Reel News, where he is of course "Pflueger Pfacts" columnist, as well as his books on Pflueger reels, most recently The History of the Pflueger Supreme, only know part of the story. But when he is not tearing apart reels and rewriting the history of Pflueger fishing tackle, Bob is a world-class geologist. A former lecturer in environmental geology and geomorphology at Vanderbilt University, he spent several decades as a research geologist for the Tennessee Geologic Survey and co-founded the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, work for which he was awarded the 1969 Holiday Magazine Award for a Beautiful America (just to tell you how prestigious this award was, the other winner that year was First Lady Lady Bird Johnson).

All of this is to tell you Bob knows of what he speaks. And like all great teachers, Bob takes you through every aspect of geology and how it affects the rivers and streams that you fish. Although slanted toward fly fisherman, anyone who has ever fished a stream or lake will find something to make them a more intelligent angler. For example, have you ever wondered why fish congregate in one part of a river and not another? Why some streams support fish better than others? How different rivers are formed? What exactly an Oxbow is? Your answers are found in this wonderful book.

Chapters include The Sources of Running Water, Groundwater and Its Influence on Stream Classification, Hydraulics: The Nature of Flowing Water, The Business of Streams, Stream Channels and Other River-Made Features, Valley Origins, Drainage Patterns, Artificial Alterations to Streams, Stream Damage Corrective and Mitigation Measures, Back to the Present: Relating the Geologic Past to Today’s Rivers, A Brief History of Life Through the Geologic Age, and two great appendices-- Basic Stream Dynamics Equations and a detailed Glossary worth the price by itself.

In layman's terms that do not speak down to the reader, Miller constantly frames the geologic processes surrounding us at all times to the pragmatic art of angling. You are never more than a page or two away from the fish. To understand the water that surrounds us is to make us all more complete and accomplished fishermen and women, and this work completely washes you in a sea of information, all presented in a totally understandable manner. It is fully illustrated with fantastic line-art drawings by the author--who also painted the wonderful cover.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is how it quietly and without preaching stresses the importance of keeping our rivers and lakes clean. Those who have followed Bob's missives on environmentalism on ORCA's Reel Talk know what Bob's opinions are on the "sky is falling" kind of environmentalism so prevalent today. Here we find a love and respect of nature and the forces that shape it that only the most ignorant could find fault with.

I love this book. It is unlike anything I have ever read before, and will stand as the primer for its field well into the future. It may not make you a better collector of fishing tackle, but it will make you a better and smarter person. I promise.

-- Dr. Todd

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