Top 5: Reasons to Read ‘Seasons on the Flats’

July 8th, 2013| No Comments

Why you should put Bill Horn’s Seasons on the Flats at the top of your must-read list

'Seasons on the Flats' by Bill HornIt’s a little while since we published a book review on Fishipedia – there’s no official policy in that regard, it’s just not something we can always find time and space for.

So, if a book does make it on here, you can assume it’s something just a little bit special. Bill Horn’s Seasons on the Flats — a journey through the fishing highlights that characterize a typical year in the Florida Keys — is exactly that.

I don’t profess to be the first to issue forth this information, it’s just that I finally had the time to sit down and read it last week, and was so impressed that I thought I’d share with you a few reasons why it’s probably my favourite read since Thomas McGuane’s Longest Silence.

It’s short and sweet

132 pages in total. But in that space, Horn achieves more than many writers would in a book five times the size. Not only is Seasons on the Flats a beautifully written chronicle of a year spent fishing in the Keys, it’s also love letter of sorts to this little string of islands, filled with Keys color, geological and historical nuggets, and an appreciation of all the “other” stuff that makes the place so special. You find yourself devouring it all so quickly, that you’re frequently glancing at the spine of the book to see how many pages you have left. Always leave them wanting more, they say. You tend to think Horn has plenty more to deliver.

It reminds me how much I love the Keys

I’ve always loved the Keys. A few years ago I took my girlfriend there and, a day or two after catching my first permit, I asked her to marry me on the beach at Bahia Honda. She said yes and now we have a daughter I can’t wait to take there. Reading this book transported me back there in an instant and reminded me that it’s high time we returned. The first thing I did when I finished the book was go online and check out flights to Miami.

Bob White’s illustrations

There’s the obligatory collection of glossy pages sandwiched in the middle, capturing the kaleidoscopic colour of the Keys — from bougainvillea in full bloom to pods of tarpon cruising over white sand flats — along with a sprinkling of black and white shots throughout. But for my money, it’s Bob White’s illustrations that really lift the book to another level. His monochrome evocations of typical Keys angling scenes, and his deftly drawn maps in particular, perfectly complement Horn’s writing and provide the requisite dreamy context that the words deserve. A winning combination.

It’s full of unexpected wisdom

OK, not all of it’s unexpected, given Horn’s experience, but there are plenty of impressive little nuggets that I didn’t see coming. I wasn’t previously aware of the correct technique for catching spiny lobster; that the local term for 50+ tarpon is a “meatball” and that 100+ is scientifically classified as a “shitload”; and that while an Upper Keys bonefish will readily hoover up a slider or a kwan, its cousins south of Long Key won’t so much as look at it. There’s also some interesting stuff about falling bonefish populations. As the author points out, skippers who cite falling bonefish stocks also point to a “minimal decline in the numbers of tarpon and permit”. So much for supposed fond recollections of the “good old days”. Another credible voice registering concern in this arena can only be a good thing.

Because it’s written by Bill Horn

You know, Bill Horn, that famous… no, I didn’t know who he was either. It takes substantial cojones for a publisher to back a relative unknown, and in that respect I doff my cap to the folks at Headwaters/Stackpole. According to his bio, Horn’s held a variety of fisheries and natural resources posts and is a respected wildlife law attorney; as far as I know, he’s also had a handful of articles published in the angling press. But in fishing terms, he’s not a household name, he’s a regular guy like you and me, whose accumulated knowledge and decade-spanning diary entries he decided might just be worth sharing. The angling press can sometimes feel like something of a closed shop, and we frequently hear from the same voices. That’s not a terrible thing, but this makes for a refreshing change. Horn is the guy that makes us all think: maybe I could have done that. Except we almost certainly couldn’t.

>>We recommend you buy it immediately. These guys can help you with that 

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