Green River Virgins

Reviewed by Heather McNeil

Flyfishing is central to the biggest moments of our life. That's certainly true for the men and women in Green River Virgins, Mallory Burton's latest book. Death, change, frailty, and passion, all happen within the context of fishing trips.

This excellent collection of short stories ranges from Colorado to Alaska, with both drama and humor. Burton evokes a whole personality and lifetime in just a few pages. The main characters recognize that their angling passion has molded their soul differently.

For example, in "Richard Said That" a 30-something Alaskan guide loves his time on the river, but sees a future of physical rigor, financial uncertainty, and long hours. On a day with a particularly difficult client, he discovers something about himself: "He knows what he's worth. I know what I am." Everyone who has moved to a place, taken a certain kind of job, passed up financial opportunities, or altered their life for fishing or any other passion, will understand this character.

Several of the stories include women anglers. Unlike other authors who have focused on the differences between men and women as anglers, Burton leads you to find common ground in the inner world of flyfishing. In "Quitting" a husband and wife take a last annual Alaska trip. "I won't deny I've felt better," she admitted. "But don't imagine you're getting your hands on my Winston until all my vital systems have shut down." "If it came to that," her husband replies, "I don't think I'd actually fish it. Probably row out into the middle of the lake, take the lid off the rod tube, and sink it." "Now that's romantic," she replies.

If you're thinking this sounds depressing--don't worry. Interspersed through the book are stories with a rye a sense of humor. For instance, consider this gem: "Robert's best fishing buddy, Brooke E. Trout, is a straight shooter. She doesn't smoke. She doesn't drink. She doesn't chase men. Brook has only one vice. It's a standard Thompson A model, adjustable for tying large or small flies."

Green River Virgins is definitely written for flyfishers. A lay reader would probably not understand the humor of debates over "microdrag" and "structure," or the tension in casting across five different currents to reach a trout idling on the far bank.

I highly recommend this book. With our raging winter rivers, it's nice to pick up a good read that will get you close to that inner place of fishing.