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To Sea & Back: The Heroic Life of the Atlantic Salmon Paperback – May 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"This examination of the life of the wild Atlantic salmon should intrigue any natural history-minded reader . . . encyclopedic yet eminently readable."  —Booklist

"An absolute delight—the perfect mixture of first-hand knowledge of natural history coupled with wit, humor and a great story."  —Alan Titchmarsh, author, How to Be a Gardener

"A remarkable addition to natural history. . . . Magisterial."  —Ronald Blythe, author, Akenfield

"Natural history writing at its very best."  —Literary Review

About the Author

Richard Shelton is research director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, former head of a freshwater fisheries laboratory, and the author of The Longshoreman: A Life at the Water’s Edge, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Paperback Edition edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843547856
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843547853
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,720,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I don't fish, but my understanding is that Atlantic salmon are highly esteemed as a prize target, and that the fisherman who can get to Scotland and enjoy both the fishing and the famously picturesque environment has achieved fishing nirvana. Richard Shelton has been able to do this because the region is his home, and though he has fished for salmon, much of his fishing has been for the sake of science rather than for sport or for platter. Among his other duties is Research Director for the Atlantic Salmon Trust, and it is clear that he loves his work and his research subject. He provides a view of both in _To Sea and Back: The Heroic Life of the Atlantic Salmon_ (Atlantic Books), a handsome volume designed to look old, like the natural history volumes that attracted the author when he was a boy. Some of Shelton's book is a look back to a riverine boyhood and the way the curiosity which provoked a boy's poking around for fish in the mud turned into the adult's poking around scientifically. Though the book is based on the remarkable life cycle of the salmon, readers will be happy for digressions on such topics as the evolution of mammalian locomotion in the waters, the edibility of rats and horses, the lives of lampreys that live by "a particularly grisly form of parasitism" (they suck onto a living fish and rasp the flesh away), the beginnings of oceanographic research, and the life of Shelton's wife's grandfather, a ghillie on the Dee. Shelton is a clear writer, and a genial guide to a diversity of subjects.

Since salmon are sequentially freshwater and saltwater fish, their life cycle is complicated, and the words to describe the phases are ancient. The tiny alevin stage is first, then fry, then smolt, then off to sea as true salmon, then return as grilse, then spawning.
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To Sea & Back: The Heroic Life of the Atlantic Salmon
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