Format Hardcover
Publication Date 08/02/22
ISBN 9781639361656
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 352

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Illuminated by Water

Fly Fishing and the Allure of the Natural World

Malachy Tallack

In its blending of nature writing and memoir—also touching on the connection of time, beauty, and memory—Illuminated by Water is an elegiac tribute to fly fishing and the natural world.

Illuminated by Water is a book about the author’s own decades-long passion for ­fly fishing and how it has shaped the way he sees and thinks about the natural world. That passion is shared and made legible here, not just for other anglers, but for those who have never yet cast a line in the water. Why is it that catching ­fish—or even thinking about catching fish—can be so thrilling, so captivating? Why is it that time spent beside water can be imprinted so sharply in the memory? Why is it that what seems a simple act of casting a line and hoping can feel so rich in mystery?

Alternating between regional and thematic chapters, Tallack considers ‘wildness’, its pursuit, and its meanings; the compulsive appeal of tying flies; the ethics of catching and killing; the allure of big ­fish; and beauty—where it’s sought and where it’s found. He describes ­fly fishing trips to America, Canada, Shetland, and England. Throughout the book, certain themes recur—environmental harm and healing; the relationship between fishing and time; hope and its manifestations; and the ways in which angling can deepen engagement with the natural world.

Malachy Tallack has written for the New Statesman, The Guardian, the Scottish Review of Books and many other publications. He won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014 and the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2015. As a singer-songwriter, he has released four albums and an EP, and performed in venues across the United Kingdom. He is editor of the online magazine The Island Review and co-editor of Fair Isle: Through the Seasons. He is from Shetland and currently lives in Glasgow.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Tallack has a gift to draw the reader into his experiences as though one were to relive the adventures with him.” The Wading List
“A masterfully told fisherman’s tale, which gets closer than most to grasping that slippery thing beyond the fish itself: the reason we are drawn to water, and what fishing can teach us.” Jeremy Wade, author and presenter of River Monsters
“A love letter to still, dark lochs and sparkling trout rivers; an account of a fascination and that deep-down draw we feel towards the water’s edge. Tallack’s beautiful book is full of interest, passion, and rich, buttery description. Wade into it, and let it flow through you.”

Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment.
"Patient, generous, ever attentive, Illuminated by Water is about both mastery and loving a thing enough to be inexpert at it for a very long time. It unspools over cultural and personal history to turn over facet after facet of what being on the water may reveal. We witness a ranging mind pull us far afield—only to remind us how many marvels are breathtakingly at hand.” A. Kendra Greene, author of The Museum of Whales You Will Never See
"Tallack dives into his decades of fly-fishing in this incandescent work about the restorative power of nature...Never didactic or sentimental, his prose winds its way through inner and outer terrains, rendering sparkling meditations at every turn. This casts the life aquatic in a wondrous light." Publishers Weekly
"A lyrical look at fly-fishing. Even for those who have never picked up a fishing rod, this poetic book has a lot to say about the process of finding the things that are truly important. The author explains all this in lucid, unhurried prose, and he can turn a good phrase. An engaging book that will make many readers head for the nearest stream to toss in a line." Kirkus Reviews
“A memoir with a difference, beautifully evocative, suffused with the calm of many days spent fishing and thinking in tranquility. The perfect gift for anglers everywhere.” Gavin Francis, author of Island Dreams
“Tallack's stylish and sensitive writing captures all the dimensions of our wonderful fishing obsession in a way that reminds me of Nick Lyons and Norman Maclean at their best—those angler/writer masters whose ranks he now joins. Illuminated by Water deserves a spot on the very top shelf of all the fishing in print.”

W. D. Wetherell, author of One River More
"Illuminated by Water is a lyrical meditation on angling's allure whose real quarry is the discovery of meaning. Tallack's spellbinding descriptions of waters near and far resonate with moments of immersive, beautiful stillness, and in doing so make the case for fishing as a practice of engagement with the wild and hidden world, a way of being fully present in the moment, seeking answers to questions that lie beneath the surface.” James Barilla, author of West with the Rise: Fly-fishing across America