Welcome to Week CIII of ‘Fishing Parkland Shorelines’. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I’ll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don’t have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
Yes, the fishing season started Monday, but alas this space gets filled with words several days in advance of publication, so as of this writing I have yet to dip a hook for the new season.
Actually as I write this particular article it is dull out. There is the scent of rain in the air, hinting we could get a spring shower at any time.
The wind, which seems a constant element of Saskatchewan weather, is bending still bare tree limbs.
It is the sort of day, even in the midst of fishing season that would be one the wise fisherman might opt to stay home on, and in such a case it would be the ideal to read a good mystery.
As fisherman we can at least find mysteries which feed our fishy sensibilities as well providing a good yarn.
Wicked Eddies by Beth Groundwater fits the bill nicely.
Part of the RM Outdoor Adventure Series, Wicked Eddies is one book in the series which most closely might also be termed a fishing mystery.
So what is the book about?
“Fly fishing is dangerous? River ranger Mandy Tanner had no idea until days before a huge tournament in Salida, Colorado. True, the Arkansas River can be a man-eater, but the rapids weren’t responsible for driving a hatchet into the heart of would-be competitor Howie Abbott. Was the killer upset that Howie was cheating? While casting around for suspects, Mandy makes a horrifying discovery in the river: the dead body of Howie Abbott’s niece. What provoked the teenage girl to run away from home? Is her death connected to Howie’s?” details the book cover.
Groundwater said she sees her series in slightly broader terms than fishing.
“I like to call the RM Outdoor Adventures series an ‘outdoor-oriented’ mystery series,” she said. “That’s because the books in the series feature a variety of outdoor activities, including whitewater rafting and climbing as well as fishing. I did develop the series with the spectacular Rocky Mountain outdoors in mind.”
Nature is certainly a backdrop to these books, so it was natural to ask if it mimicked Groundwater’s own background?
“Yes, I enjoy being outside in my home state of Colorado, and I thought, why not write a mystery series that allows me to have fun outdoors while ‘researching’ the plots and characters?” she said. “I’m a ‘river rat’ from way back, when I started whitewater canoeing in the 1980s, and I still enjoy rafting those standing waves in Colorado rivers. I also enjoy hiking and biking in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
“While the adventure component is exhilarating, what I most enjoy are the sights, sounds and smells of nature all around me.
“For instance, the last time I snowshoed at the nearby Breckenridge Nordic Center, I spotted two moose eating next to the trail and took some photos while keeping a respectful distance. That was the highlight of the day for me.”
Groundwater said she also saw her efforts as becoming a series from the outset.
“Yes, I always envisioned a series, because mystery novels are usually bought by publishers in series,” she said. “The readers get ‘hooked’ on the sleuth’s character and life and want to follow that character through a number of books.”
In the case of Wicked Eddies, Groundwater found inspirations in real life.
“The inspiration for the imaginary fly fishing tournament in Wicked Eddies is the very real The America Cup International Fly Fishing Tournament (http://www.theamericacup.com/) held in Vail, Colorado, each year,” she said.
“The organizer of that tournament allowed me to shadow him and another judge for a day to see how the tournament is run and to write down snippets of fishing lingo, lore, and techniques.
“I also attended the award ceremony, interviewed team members and staff, took a fly fishing lesson, and read fishing textbooks.
“The America Cup does not include a whitewater river rafting component to their competition, so that part of the tournament in Wicked Eddies came out of my imagination.
“Also, none of the characters in Wicked Eddies are modeled after specific people I met and interviewed while researching the book but are instead amalgamations of characteristics of those people.”
As a mystery more focused on fishing than other books in Groundwater’s series, Wicked Eddies has gained some added attention.
“I already had fans of the series who are interested in whitewater rafting, which was featured in book one, Deadly Currents. Many fishermen and women read Wicked Eddies because of the fly fishing tournament featured in the book,” she said. “Also, when each book in the series was released, I held a fundraiser signing for the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, which encouraged local fishermen and women to support a favorite cause and try the series at the same time.”
Wicked Eddies drew me to review it because of the fishing element entwined in the mystery, but readers may well want to stick with the series for Groundwater’s obvious knowledge of the outdoors, and her comfortable writing style.
In that regard a more recent book awaits readers.
“The third book in the series, ‘Fatal Descent’, was released in June, 2013,” said Groundwater. “In it, Mandy Tanner and her love interest, Rob Juarez, lead a whitewater rafting trip down Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah. Outdoor activities featured on that trip include hiking, camping, climbing, and fishing as well as rafting.
“My husband and I took that trip ourselves with an outfitter to research the book, and I loved it.
“As for future books in the series, I can’t say for now. I’m taking a break from my grueling schedule the last three years of releasing two books a year in two different mystery series. I’m ‘refilling the well’ as we writers like to say, by taking some time off to get those creative juices flowing again and to engage in some more outdoor activities myself.”
It is to be hoped the juices do indeed start to flow again as it would be a shame not to see more mysteries from Groundwater.
Check it out at www.bethgroundwater.com
Another option, and one well-suited to the glove box to read during a shower at the fishing hole, is Hook, Line & Sinister, a collection of short story fishing mysteries brought together by Jeff Parker (www.tjeffersonparker.com).
Parker said the collection came about at the suggestion of a friend.
“A friend of mine suggested that I ask some of my fishing buddies to contribute short stories for an anthology of ‘fishing mysteries. After that it was just a matter of rounding them up,” he said.
One of the great things about a collection of shorts is that every reader is likely to find at least some that they like
“I think Andrew Winer’s story, ‘Darmstadt’ was unforgettable. So strange and mysterious and so very much not about fishing! It was just what I’d hoped for,” said Parker. “The whole idea was that the theme of fishing would inspire different writers in different ways. We really proved that.”
So how does one get a short story collection together when many authors are involved?
“This book is further proof that anglers love to write and writers love to fish. Much has been said and written about why this is true – some itself true and some of it less so. I think the nub of it is that writers and anglers are happy to trade the known for the unknown. The blank page yields words that were not there; the unpromising water yields fish that were not seen. Mysteries both,” details the book’s Preface.
“But blank pages and bodies of water are stubborn, private things. The author/angler wants passionately to extract something wild and unseen from them and this is an unpredictable enterprise. It can be joyous and it can be heartbreaking. As is often the case, it’s the passion that lights the way …
“These writers almost uniformly jumped at the chance to contribute. Back to that passion thing. None of us could staunchly resist the opportunity to write about something we truly love to do. However, I will say that often, when I had a question about a story, my phone call or e-mail to a contributor might go unanswered for days. Why? Because my writer was out fishing, of course.”
Parker said it helped there was a good cause associated with the book.
“Most of them were happy to contribute, especially when they learned that a portion of sales would go to two very worthy charitable groups, Project Healing Waters, and Casting for Recovery,” said Parker. “I think writers in general have big hearts, but we’re stuck behind these computers all day, so the chance to do something charitable is a good thing.”
The Preface again provides detail.
“One organization is Project Healing Waters, which takes wounded combat soldiers on fishing trips to help heal body and soul. Healing Waters does some truly wonderful work. It’s their way of saying thank you to these men and women.
“The other group is Casting for Recovery, which takes women suffering from cancer on fishing excursions in search of restorative hours. They’ve done some terrific things for women who are fighting valiantly to keep a disease from taking away their passion and their lives.”
I have to say seeing two causes which revolve around fishing as a way to helping people’s health and outlook is a very cool aspect of the collection. Everyone involved needs to be commended for that effort.
So has the fishing theme helped in terms of sales?
“I’ll bet the publisher, The Countryman Press, could tell you for sure, but I’d bet so,” said Parker. “Put it this way, if I knew nothing about ‘Hook, Line & Sinister,’ and saw it in a store, I’d buy it based on my love of fishing and mysteries.”
And Parker is, not surprisingly a fisherman.
“I’m a California guy and I came to fishing kind of late in life,” he said. “But I love it; there are few things I’d rather do.
“My home waters are in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I fish those streams and rivers every chance I get.
“I’ve also been fortunate to travel a bit in order to fish. I’ve had fantastic trips to the Florida Keys, Yellowstone, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela. Next stop? Not sure but I’m willing!”
So what species are you most inclined to fish for?
“Anything I can fool,” he said. “I’m a fly-fisherman, so it’s all about trickery. I still think a big, picky, sight-fished brown trout on a dry fly is about as good as it gets. But hey, that 50-lb roosterfish down in Baja wasn’t bad either!”
Sadly Parker said the book is likely to be a standalone. A ‘Volume II’ would be a ‘must-have’ for me, sight unseen.
Both Hook, Line & Sinister and Wicked Eddies are fine reads for mystery buffs, and in particular those liking fishing as a backdrop. Check them out.