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Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs

Stories of Fly Fishing in America

Kent Cowgill

Publication Year: 2012

Ranging from the riotously comic to the nostalgic, edgy, and suspenseful, these sixteen stories offer richly developed and engaging portraits of characters across the spectrum of life, all absorbed by the thrill of fly fishing. A marriage betrayal on a trout stream in the north woods, a young boy’s coming of age as a fly fisherman in the Black Hills of South Dakota, angler rage on the redfish flats of the Gulf of Mexico, an epic quest for bullish rainbows in Montana’s celebrated Bighorn, the quiet mystique of Wisconsin’s Brule River, the intensity of combat fishing on a salmon pool in the Pacific Northwest, these are just a few of the fascinating tales of fly fishing offered in Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs. Rendered in sparkling prose that will resonate with every angler, this collection will also delight any reader who enjoys outdoor pastimes.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

Any fly fisher who is honest, if that’s not an oxymoron, is indebted to far too many people to count. The same is true, perhaps even truer, of one who writes. With sincere apologies to the many big-hearted individuals whom space constraints have not let me mention here, I want to thank the following for their friendship...

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Day of Mourning

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pp. 3-13

The coffin had been laid to rest with such dispatch its burnished image lingered on in the mind’s eye, the russet wood glazed with sunlight, the varnish on its bevels gleaming with a lustrous sheen. The widow approached us in the reception hall a few minutes later, long limbed and shapely beneath her black...

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Two Men in a Museum

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pp. 14-26

None of his paintings work for me,” the woman said, her finger pointing at a winding band of silver running diagonally across a background that looked to her husband like a thick stand of pine. “It’s basically a trick, trying to obscure how labored and derivative the naturalism is by imposing this abstract pewter...

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pp. 27-37

This is a story about longing and isolation. Desperation. About the things they can lead you to do, or almost do, when they run high in your blood. It could possibly have happened anywhere. That it happened in Nebraska will surprise no one who has ever driven alone across the state in the month...

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The Conception

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pp. 38-47

The boy could smell the pines before he saw them. Or he thought he could. Cramped in the back seat between the sweating thighs of his older brothers, he caught only glimpses of the dark jagged line rising out of the miles of plain still ahead of them—said nothing of what had swelled for minutes in his...

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pp. 48-56

I had a really lucky thing happen to me this morning,” my wife announced from the far end of the table. We were in the “How did your day go” beginning of dinner. “Oh yeah?” I responded half- listening, munching my salad. She stared at me for several seconds before going...

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Spanish Fly

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pp. 57-67

"Call me Pedro.” The words seemed innocent enough at the time, merely the latest of his harmless quirks, like his taste for flamenco music and the occasional pitcher of sangria. But they loom now, looking back, as Pete Smith’s private Niagara— the moment he went over...

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pp. 68-75

They had come off the water an hour earlier still fuming. “Those goddamned sonsabitches,” the realtor swore. “I’d have coldcocked that motherfucker driving if we could have chased him down.” The doctor said nothing, bit back the remains of his own anger with another salty sip from his...

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The Devil’s Arse

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pp. 76-84

The state isn’t important, nor is the year or the name of the river. Say simply that the celebrated water I had driven halfway across America to fish is in the West, the time was several years ago, and the river’s trico hatches in recent years had become so famed they’d begun to draw insufferable hordes...

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pp. 85-95

"Isn’t that thing like hunting a tiger with a switch?” “It sure feels like it today.” The river flowed down to the Oregon coast, the slate- dark pool just above its mouth ringed with spin fishermen. Their casting was so intent they appeared oblivious to the waves crashing onto the beach barely a stone’s throw...

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pp. 96-107

My name’s Cooper. I mention that at the outset because I’m the only one of our foursome without a nickname, unless “Coop” qualifies as such. The way we met is one of those bizarre scenarios that happen in life about as often as winning the lottery. For the four of us were—remain— as outwardly unmatched and ill suited...

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Last Cast

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pp. 108-118

He had worn the vest for almost fifty years. Half a century. Worn it so often and so long only a few crinkled tangles remained on the wool patch and the once- tawny cloth had darkened with fly floatant and sweat. He held it briefly in his gnarled hands before shrugging it on over his shoulders, the satisfying weight...

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pp. 119-126

It was a Saturday morning in February when the telephone rang as I was chipping ice off my doorstep. Dropping the shovel, I shucked my Sorels and padded inside to answer it. “C’gradulations, ol’ buddy,” the caller drawled. “You’ve just been picked by the Root Valley Reelmen. Fourth round of the ’naugural Cat...

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Indian Summer

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pp. 127-138

He lurched down the lane in a euphoric daze, half- blinded by the October light. Fumbling in his vest for his sunglasses, he was a hundred yards from his car before the torn, empty pockets registered and he paused, shaking his head...

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Labor Day

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pp. 139-148

Thanks to the end- of-summer holiday, they have a three- day week-end. Time off from her work at the county courthouse before his classes start in the fall. Time to finally “get away together,” as they’d long falsely promised each other they wanted to do. What’s been missing is trust, from each of them, and both...

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The Rod

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pp. 149-156

Just below the sloping lawn, down on the lake, a small boat is trolling for walleyes. The pair of shirt- sleeved fishermen are seated. When the boat turns, retraces its course, their lines glint briefly in the sun. The woman sitting alone on her deck continues to gaze at them, at the shimmering water. Several years earlier, pressed by her husband...

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Season’s End

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pp. 157-160

The township road bends sharply away from the highway, curls past the rusting cages of an abandoned mink farm, then drops into the valley alongside the stream. On the final day of September, the last of the season, the angler peers anxiously through the rain- streaked windshield to get a first look at the water...

Back Cover

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p. 172-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780299289133
E-ISBN-10: 0299289133
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299289102
Print-ISBN-10: 0299289109

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 8 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Fly fishing -- United States -- Fiction.
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