A Fly Fishing Book Review: So Many Fish, So Little Time

By Tom Chandler 5/20/2007

It's a big book. A great big book. That was my first hit when holding So Many Fish, So Little Time by Mark D. Williams.

So Many Fish, So Little Time by Mark D. WilliamsFor the terminally numerically inclined, it's 1.75 inches deep, which translates to 860 pages of words and pictures.

Subtitled "1001 of the World's Greatest Backcountry Honeyholes, Trout Rivers, Blue Ribbon Waters, Bass Lakes and Saltwater Hot Spots" it's not a book you'll read from front to back, and therein lies the rub.

What exactly are you supposed to do with it?

Good Writer. Odd Concept.
The author is an entertaining writer, though several of my sample readings suggest he's at his pithiest when he has the least to say.

That's not unusual, and the author has something interesting to write about many of the fishing locations, most of which are well known. When in doubt, they say, go with what you know, so when I received my review copy of the book, I went right to the section on California.

It lists 28 different bodies of water, including the SF Bay, the Delta, Yosemite National Park, the McCloud, the Sacramento River (upper and lower in one entry), and a horde of other places, most of which the natives have heard about.

It's not a bad list, and I'm thankful it doesn't include a lot of the smaller, out-of-the-way places better left fished by only a handful – not a horde of readers.

Williams' descriptions often include a story and they're typically an absorbing read, but given the intricacies of fishing any body of water, they lack the depth you'd get from a guidebook with a more limited focus.

Indeed, the depth of So Many Fish -- it covers the entire USA and most of the world – is both its strength and its downfall.

So Many Entries, So Little Depth
Paging through the entries for the places I've been and the places I'd like to visit was momentarily interesting. Sadly, there's simply no way a California fly fisher would find more of value here than the Fly Fisher's Guide to Northern California (or the equivalent in any other state).

If I was truly planning a trip to my part of the country (or even another part of the world), I'd want a lot more information than is found here.

Perhaps So Many Fish will find a place on bookshelves as a large-scale reference work, which would truly be a shame; William's writing is entertaining and he's clearly fished far more waters than most of us would consider "fair."

In truth, if I were Absolute Ruler of the Universe, I'd turn this book into something beyond the "1001 places to fish" guidebook its marketing suggests it is.

I'm a lot more interested in Williams' stories than I am in a too-short description of water in Andorra, and a Fly Fishing the World style of book – where Williams' experiences were the centerpiece instead of the waters -- would have proven far more interesting.

In fact, it's tempting to read through the river/lake/stream/ocean listings one after another, soaking up Williams' words, but it's frustrating. The bites are too small and the interruptions too great.

An Example? You Got It.
On page 451, Williams begins a story about fishing hitting the Salmon fly jackpot on the Yellowstone, three friends in tow. One of them struggles with the "big fish every cast" fishing, alienates the other anglers, and even ends up throwing rocks at the rising fish, an act which lands him in hot water with the other anglers.

Sadly, we only get a few hundred words about the experience – yet it's worth several thousand.

And to get there, I had to power my way through several pages describing the Yellowstone River -- information available many other places, and in much greater depth.

As they say, therein lies the hell of it; So Many Fish, So Little Time is an interesting work, but in my twisted way of viewing things, it's either incomplete as a guidebook, or it shortchanges us in the interesting story department.

I give it a lukewarm reception, though I'd look very, very hard at any future books by Mark Williams. I like his words.

You can get your own copy at Amazon:

So Many Fish, So Little Time: 1001 of the World's Greatest Backcountry Honeyholes, Trout Rivers, Blue Ribbon Waters, Bass Lakes, and Saltwater Hot Spots

fly fishing, fishing, book, book review


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

I find that the better the writer, the better the book, no matter how valuable the information is. Sandy Mathnasium

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