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The Founding Fish Hardcover – October 13, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
Of course, there is much advice about fishing for shad, which seem to be a particularly elusive fish. McPhee quotes extensively from his fishing diaries, and starts his book with a funny description of an epic battle with a shad on the Delaware River starts. McPhee has seventy feet of six-pound test line "suddenly pulled by a great deal more than the current." The battle goes on for pages and pages, eventually ending in the netting of a 4 3/4 pound shad. A fighting fish, to be sure. Or a clumsy angler. Shad is not an endangered species, but of course they have been affected by the humans changing their waters. Beside the problem of pollution, there are thousands of dams on rivers that used to present only milder natural obstacles for the returning fish. Some of the dams are, surprisingly, coming down, and McPhee takes us to a dam-removing ceremony.Read more ›
McPhee's reputation as a writer should need no introduction. However, if you are unacquainted with his work, you can start here with confidence. He deftly presents a melange of scientific information, "folk wisdom", history and personal experience. As with his work on geology, he entices researchers, fishermen, guides and legislators to provide him their views, which he relates with sympathy and clarity. Throughout this narrative, his own experiences are told with wit and compassion. Fishermen are great whingers, but McPhee brings a new level of sensitivity to his personal accounts. He knows there's a god when a nearby fisherman nets six fish while his hook remains empty - only a god could permit such arbitrary antics in nature.
The research and folk tales centre on a particular form of fish. Anadromous ["running up"] fish, among which salmon are the most famous, can move from an ocean environment up fresh water streams to spawn. This talent requires bizarre body chemistry, bearing immense costs.Read more ›
If one had, by some fiat, to restrict all of John McPhee's writing to one paragraph, this excerpt from THE FOUNDING FISH would be a good representative example, something of a core sample of years of excellent prose. The reference to the Florida orange crop in the last sentence neatly encapsulates ORANGES, McPhee's epic 1967 writing on the classical, biological, economic and social history of oranges, written in that startlingly crisp and literate prose that is his hallmark. The discussion of Floridian geology is evocative of his masterpiece, ANNALS OF THE FORMER WORLD, a four-volume exploration of geology and the plate tectonics revolution that won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1999. McPhee has written the authoritative texts on a dizzying array of topics, as varied as Alaska (COMING INTO THE COUNTRY), the merchant marine (LOOKING FOR A SHIP), and Bill Bradley (A SENSE OF WHERE YOU ARE).
THE FOUNDING FISH continues in this tradition. It is the definitive work on the American shad. There are, therefore, only two groups of readers who will be delighted by it; those who have heard of the American shad, and those who have not.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent work on history, fish, and fishing! The author alternates between fishing experiences, shad biology, and history in depth. Read morePublished 7 months ago by B. L. Meyer
I love John McPhee and this book did not disappoint me. He can talk about a fish for page after page, with a fair amount of detail and I love every page. Read morePublished 11 months ago by T. L. Holcomb
I am a John McPhee fan, for many reasons. His books are readable, and you learn a lot without ever feeling like you are just having facts thrown at you. Read morePublished 15 months ago by westlady
I had previously only thought of the Shad as a baitfish--it was mind boggling to see what an inspirational piscatorial critter it really was in our history.Published 15 months ago by Michael C. Rainnie
McPhee at his best. Witty, entertaining. Put it on your kindle so you can keep up with his vocabulary.Published 16 months ago by Margaret
This was a gift for my brother who is a fisherman; he loved it! I have read almost everything that McPhee has written, so I MUST remember to borrow this back!!!Published 19 months ago by Julie A. Smith
Beautiful book about a beautiful fish and a great country..Great gift for any fishing lover.Published 22 months ago by Lorenzo Mila