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The Optimist

The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life by David Coggins


In his new book, The Optimist, David Coggins explores virtues including patience and observation as he fishes the fabled trout streams of Montana, the Limay in Patagonia, and the bone-fishing flats of the Bahamas. He casts for Atlantic salmon in a Crown-owned river in Canada, and for striped bass in Jamaica Bay. To say that The Optimist is just a book about fly-fishing, however, would be like saying that Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is merely about how to care for a ’66 Honda Super Hawk.

Sure, The Optimist contains some wry insights about fishing. At one point, Coggins likens fishing with a streamer [the lowest form of lure to fishing snobs] as the equivalent of “bringing a keg and stack of red solo cups to a freshman dorm.” But the book is also about weightier matters. The title is a reference to one of the author’s fundamental insights about angling. “Fishing requires an act of faith,” writes Coggins. “We control only part of the equation. The fish has to complete the act. That’s why an angler must, at some level, be an optimist.”