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The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life (Paperback)
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An “excellent” (The New York Times) modern tribute to an ageless pastime, and a practical guide to the art, philosophy, and rituals of fly fishing, by an expert, lifelong angler.
In The Optimist, David Coggins makes a case for the skills and sensibility of an enduring sport and shares the secrets, frustrations, and triumphs of the great tradition of fly fishing, which has captivated anglers worldwide.
Written in wry, wise, and keenly observed prose, each chapter focuses on a specific place, fish, and skill. Few individuals, for example, have the visual acuity required to catch the nearly invisible bonefish of the Bahamas flats. Or the patience to land the elusive Atlantic salmon, “the fish of a thousand casts,” in eastern Canada. Pursuing these challenges, Coggins, “a confirmed obsessive,” travels to one fishing paradise after another, including the great rivers of Patagonia, private chalk streams in England, remote ponds in Maine, and New York City’s Jamaica Bay. In each setting, he chronicles his fortunes and misfortunes with honesty and humor while meditating on how fishing teaches focus, inner stillness, and a connection to the natural world.
Perfect for the novice, the enthusiastic amateur, and the devoted angler alike, The Optimist offers a practical path to enlightenment while providing “a rueful, thoughtful, and very funny examination of an elegant obsession” (Jay McInerney).
About the Author
David Coggins is the author of Men and Manners and the New York Times bestseller Men and Style. He writes about fly fishing for Robb Report and tailoring, drinking, and travel for numerous publications, including the Financial Times, Bloomberg Pursuits, and Condé Nast Traveler. He writes The Contender newsletter. Coggins lives in New York and fishes regularly in the Catskills, Wisconsin, and Montana.
“Anyone interested in fly fishing or curious how the sport could possibly be of interest to anyone should hop to David Coggins’s excellent The Optimist."
—The New York Times
“This is a wonderful book but to be honest, Coggins writes so well that he could rivet our attention to anything—cottage cheese, Ted Cruz, the Detroit Lions—and we would follow every sentence with remarkable obedience."
—Thomas McGuane, author of The Longest Silence
"Coggins' keen observations of this genteel pursuit are offered with humor, a dash of wisdom, and an enthusiasm so infectious you'll be itching to perfect your backcast between chapters."
—Fortune Magazine, "Best Books of 2021"
"Humorous and relatable. . . . A great read for fly fishing enthusiasts and novices alike."
“David Coggins is a pro, and his book is smart and aware and generous, the writing elegant, the humor tucked in just the right places."
“Immersive, true, pitch-perfect, and a soon-to-be classic. Coggins is a fresh voice in the fly-fishing canon, a wry genius, and the perfect guide for angler and non-angler alike.”
—Chris Dombrowski, author of Body of Water
“Lively, humoristic but informative. . . . [Coggins is] a talented and entertaining writer."
—Atlantic Salmon Journal
"[The Optimist] makes a nice philosophical case for fly fishing."
"An entertaining read and intelligent resource for anglers and non-anglers alike. . . . At the height of his literary talents, the author ultimately reveals a healthy approach to angling--and to life in general."
“To paraphrase an old saying: Writing about fly fishing is like dancing about architecture. It's nearly impossible to capture but David Coggins does it as well as anyone, and I thrilled to his adventures from England to Patagonia to America's great rivers.”
—Tom Rosenbauer, author of The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide
“I’ve fished many of the rivers in this book but I hadn’t seen them run and shimmer the way they do in Coggins’s lively prose. What’s more, I’d given up on fishing, I don’t know why—maybe the world was too much with me; okay, let’s just say I’ve been preoccupied with ephemera rather than the eternal, which is what fly-fishing makes one confront. I closed this last chapter and said hell or high water, I was going to get back to the rivers and streams I’ve missed. There’s much to fall in love with in this world, and this book reminded me of that.”
—Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers
“The Optimist is a rueful, thoughtful and very funny examination of an elegant obsession. Coggins does a terrific job of evoking the joys of fly fishing and also the frustrations, which are inextricably linked. This is the best book I’ve read on fishing since Thomas McGuane’s The Longest Silence.”
“Wonderfully written, consistently amusing, grand but never grandiose.”
—Lesley M.M. Blume, author of Fallout
“An excellent primer for the beginning fly angler and a lyrical reminder of all there is to love about the sport for even the most jaded of old hands.”
—Monte Burke, author of Lords of the Fly and Saban
“A wise, affectionate chronicle of a passion pursued.”
"Coggins is a virtuoso. He has written a modern fly fishing classic."
“A pure and extended love letter to fishing. . . . what grows on you and ultimately stays with you while reading The Optimist is his sheer exuberance and honesty. The real brotherhood of fishing might occasionally be about fishing triumphs, but just as often if not more, it is about failures. And we get streamside seats to all of Coggins’s."
—The Washington Free Beacon
"A lovely, ruminative book about a venerable sport. . . . Coggins’s enthusiasm for fly fishing is so infectious that the book will readily hook non-fishers as well.”