With a painter's eye and a writers pen, Russell Chatham dissects the sporting life from a very personal point of view. Little escapes comment as he ranges across lessons on life, old friends, places gone to rot, food, death, sex, art, sportsmanship and sport in the outdoors.
Included in this collection is one of my favorite pieces, which first appeared in Gray's Sporting Journal in the seventies, I think. The Great Duck Misunderstanding – a story that is pure Chatham. And since I love eating ducks it has remained in my mind for over 35 years. It is good to find it here in this collection.
Chatham grew up in the California of my youth, now sadly gone. Having fled to Montana in the seventies, he has the benefit of some distance now. “In an odd way,” he says, “ it's a curse to have been born and raised in one of the most sublime places on earth. I've been around the world and have never seen another place of such sensuous, languid character, or where the climate is so benign.”
In Pumping Irony Chatham mourns and quietly rages over what is now gone – striped bass fishing in California – which is clearly an indicator of the abundant and free California he knew in his youth. And he was right about the future of this state over 40 years ago.
Read this book.
PS: Russ Chatham has written a number of books and is a celebrated painter. One of his first was a little gem in paperback published in 1977 by the San Francisco Examiner, Striped Bass on the Fly - A Guide to California Waters. The pencil illustrations, observations and specific information are priceless, if dated.