Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review: On the Run - An Angler's Journey Down the Striper Coast

Who among us hasn't lost himself in the fantasy of walking off the job to follow a minor league baseball team, the NASCAR circuit, or a band? We all think it - and then mortgages, careers, and most critically, wives, douse us with the cold shower of reality. Unless you're a writer. Writers are actually paid to quit jobs and chase their passions, though they must out-divorce the rest of us 2 to 1. David DiBenedetto is one such writer who, in the fall of 2001, arrived on the Maine coast in a gleaming Ford Explorer loaded with maps, rods, and lures. From Maine, he chased the striped bass migration through New Hampshire, Cape Cod, New York City, the Jersey Shore, and the Chesapeake. He didn't stop until November when the bass were exhausted, he was broke, and that brand new (and borrowed) SUV stank of baitfish and musty waders.

The book's chapter on the annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is its highlight. There, DiBenedetto introduces us to genuine striper bums who spend the month-long tournament fishing 20 hours each day and tying flies for the other four. They sleep in the sand, red line their fishmobiles chasing striper blitzes, and practice counter-espionage to confuse fellow competitors. Other than the excessive use of "eponymous", my only complaint is that you don't get to know the various anglers and guides well enough. DiBenedetto's trip sometimes feels rushed as he hurries from one appointment to the next. Perhaps because of this, the book is an easy read for non-anglers and fishing obsessives alike. I warn you, however, reading this book in the dead of winter, far from the surf, will only compound your cabin fever as you await your own opening day. On a go/no-go scale, I give On the Run a "go".

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