West with the Rise: Fly-fishing Across America

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University of Virginia Press, 2006 - Sports & Recreation - 215 pages
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The first book to follow a fly-fishing trip from coast to coast, West with the Rise is James Barilla's account of a solitary journey that begins in New England and ends in Northern California, with little more to keep him company than a secondhand pickup bought just for the trip, a pair of Nikes he cannot seem to keep dry (they're literally decomposing before his eyes), and the graphite stick and reel that the fly fisher reaches for before he has even fully awoken.

The progression from the spring creeks of the East to the big sky country and its nearly mythic trout streams represents more than a search for better fishing. It marks for Barilla the transition from the Massachusetts of his childhood to the West that has become his home as an adult.

Woven into his days on the streams are his thoughts of the family he and his wife are planning. More than a preoccupation, it is to some extent the very inspiration for the trip itself. The couple's years-long attempt to have a child has brought them to fertility specialists, and the options they offer, such as in vitro fertilization, Barilla explains with the same attention to detail with which he describes the water's clarity and the coolness of a newfound fishing ground. The question is not only one of successful treatment but of exactly why Barilla should desire a child and what he as a father would have to offer.

It is the streams that have run through his entire life--"We are mostly water," he reminds us--to which Barilla now turns for answers. At times no one would mistake this world for that of Huck Finn. Barilla drives past strip malls, falls asleep to Dirty Harry playing on his motel room television, and reads in a trout magazine of a particular stream that is no longer what it once was, thanks to urban sprawl--to which one fly shop proprietor adds, "No place is what it was."

It is almost with a sense of relief, then, that we reach so many settings of uncommon beauty--from Yellow Breeches Creek in Pennsylvania to the grand Deschutes River in Oregon--each with a singular fishing experience to offer.

For Barilla this journey is a chance to reflect on his life as an angler but also on his, at turns frustrating and deeply rewarding, relationship with the outdoors and its unending capacity to surprise and instruct.


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West with the rise: fly-fishing across America

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These two books add a bit more glitter to the bright thread of fly-fishing gold that runs through the fabric of American sporting literature. Barilla (English, Lake Forest Coll.), for whom peripatetic ... Read full review


The Old Party Spot
Getting Intimate with the Truck
Green Rage
The End of the East
Smolt Killer
Regrets to the Midwest
Alone in the Dark
Smoke on the Water
Ice Cube
Angling for Invertebrates
Searching for Holy Water
A Last Pair of Sirens
Little Fish Finale

The Road Warrior

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About the author (2006)

James Barilla, a lifelong fly fisher, is Assistant Professor of English at Lake Forest College.

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