Birdshot and backlashes: Pocketing a couple books

by Bob Cary

Not everything involved with cold, windy and wet weather is bad. Certainly folks up here on a fishing vacation may curse those days when it becomes a real rain suit endeavor to venture onto the lakes as an icy torrent is beating down and the wind is churning up four-foot combers. But, then, there is cabin time.<BR><BR>Probably there is nothing more soul satisfying on a miserable day than curling up by the fireplace or wood stove in a cabin and having some fine, readable books at hand. Those of us who have lived year around in cabins are well aware that the romance quickly wears off when the temperature plunges to 40 below and snow piles up against the door. <BR><BR>But for a week or two vacation, or even a summer furlough from civilization, a cabin is a perfect place to hang out, especially on those days when the outside world is decidedly inclement.<BR><BR>Ah, but what to read? There are two books which have engaged our interest during this last episode of unseasonable seasons, such a non-spring turning into a non-summer. Those volumes are: “Superior Seasons” by North Shore author Shawn Perich and “The Founding Fish “ by John McPhee, a Yankee who writes for east coast publications.<BR><BR>Shawn Perich’s offering, a collection of stories concerning life along Lake Superior’s coast, ranges from duck hunting adventures to moose, trout and even the selection and harvesting of a Christmas tree from the forest. <BR><BR>Perich, a veteran writer on Northeastern Minnesota, has the practiced eye of the seasoned woodsman and a unique ability to communicate what he has experienced to the reader. In effect, the reader travels with him as he pursues native brook trout in a mayfly hatch and patiently works with a somewhat independent and recalcitrant yellow lab during bird season. <BR><BR>“Superior Seasons” is self-published by Shawn at North Shore Press in Hovland, MN, $14.95 worth of literary fun found in most local book outlets.<BR><BR>The other book is “The Founding Fish” by John McPhee. This is a somewhat more intellectual tome, although it concerns one of the most popular gamefish on the Atlantic coast. We have nothing here in Minnesota resembling the shad’s huge population and migrations from salt water to spawning in freshwater and back to salt water…perhaps. We have the lake whitefish which does move about within the confines of whichever lake system it dwells, and is also somewhat of an enigma to anglers. Shad are different.<BR><BR>Historically, shad fishing was enjoyed by colonial settlers from the earliest times and was a staple in the diet of east coast American Indians. McPhee, a dedicated fisher of shad, relates his successes and failures, like all true anglers, but also delves deeply into the biology of this migratory species.<BR><BR>McPhee associates with a number of knowledgeable fisheries biologists who have studied this fish at length, traced its migrations and habits, and are currently attempting to understand the chemistry change of such fish, leaving salt water to live and spawn in a non-salt river environment and then change back again when returning to salt water.<BR><BR>Shad migrate by millions. Some to go up rivers in their fourth year to spawn and die, like salmon, some to return to salt water for several more years of life.<BR><BR>McPhee, like the biologists, like anglers forever, searches for the ‘’why” in all this and it makes for absorbing reading.<BR><BR>He covers the subject with wit, flavored from the fisherman’s standpoint. “The Founding Fish” retails at $14, paperback, from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is doubtful it will be in many local bookstores, but it could be. In any case, it can be obtained on line.<BR><BR> Shad are very good eating, in case any reader wonders why all the attention is paid to the species. It is also a very strong fighting fish on hook and line, so they say. I really don’t know. I have never caught one. McPhee makes me feel like I may have been missing something.<BR><BR> <BR><BR>