Illuminated by Water
Why is it that catching a fish - or simply contemplating catching a 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 such a simple act - that of casting a line and hoping - can feel so rich in mystery?
Illuminated by Water is a book about fishing, written in part for those who have never fished, for those who may indeed be baffled by this peculiar pastime. It explores the appeal of fishing, its intense joys and frustrations, the steadying effect it has both at water's edge and in the memory, and the contemplation of nature and landscape that comes with being an angler.
This book both articulates the lure of the river and the endless desire to return to it, and illuminates a passion that has shaped the way so many see and think about the natural world.
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"Malachy Tallack writes as deftly as he casts a fly. This book is illuminated by water, but also by philosophy, experience and a profound sympathy for the natural world. A delight" LUKE JENNINGS, author of the Killing Eve novels
"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
"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
"In Illuminated by Water Malachy Tallack captures the true spirit of wild angling; where the twin pull of a magical location, and just the possibility of a fish, are what keeps anglers returning to cast throughout their lives. Truly, a beautifully drawn and thoughtful book." WILL MILLARD, author of The Old Man and the Sand Eel
"Malachy 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 Vermont River and One River More.
"Going back to Walton’s The Compleat Angler, trout fishing has been the focus of a remarkable number of excellent books, but there are a special few, such as Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Tom McGuane’s The Longest Silence, whose language is instilled with a beauty that fully befits the beauty of its subject. Malachy Tallack is such a writer, and Illuminated by Water is destined to be a classic, both as a memoir on trout fishing and, also, a meditation on life.” RON RASH, author of Serena and In the Valley
“Malachy Tallack’s Illuminated by Water is not like any book on fishing I have ever read. It is profoundly moral, looking directly at the questions angling raises as well as its attractions, but in the end finding the deep reason why so many are drawn to it – because at its best it leads us into the heart of the natural world which is our true home. This is a solemn, deeply considered, exceptionally beautiful, exhilarating book. It is a book to read, rejoice in, and come back to all your life.” MICHAEL MCCARTHY, author of The Moth Snowstorm
"Barely a few pages into this book I desperately wanted to leave it on the kitchen table, dust off my trout rod and head to the nearest loch, but I couldn't put it down. Damn you, Malachy Tallack. Attempting to explain the draw of fishing to anyone - even anglers - is like trying to explain the concept of infinity to a toddler, but Tallack combines his extensive experience on (and in) the water with an extraordinary knowledge of the history, literature and science of this most liminal of pursuits in this beautiful and engaging book." SHAUN BYTHELL, author of The Diary of a Bookseller
"A memoir with a difference, beautifully evocative, suffused with the calm of many days spent fishing and thinking in tranquillity. The perfect gift for anglers everywhere." GAVIN FRANCIS, author of Island Dreams
"A beautifully meandering meditation on the mysterious allure of fishing. From windswept lochs to sluggish canals, Malachy Tallack grapples with big ethical issues about our place in the natural world as deftly as he does the fish."
LEE SCHOFIELD, author of Wild Fell
"I loved it . . . I loved its attentiveness to place and animal, its elucidation of the unseen spirits of water and fish and it made me want to pick up a rod for the first time since I was a teenager. Tallack has written one of those books that transcends its niche subject." STEPHEN RUTT, author of The Seafarers
"A marvellous immersive reflection on the act and idea of fishing. The alchemy of angling acts as a springboard to explore our relationship with water, memory, the natural world, and trout, in stunning prose which put me in mind of Chris Yates and Alice Oswald. As Richard Brautigan once wrote of a man who had 'a way of describing trout as if they were a precious and intelligent metal' so Malachy Tallack's passion and writing cast a golden spell. A questing, vibrant, thoughtful book which delights in the beauty and mystery of its subject." DAN RICHARDS, author of Outpost
“Malachy Tallack has spent decades feeling out the eddies of attraction and commitment, surprise and stillness, to take us to this perfect spot. 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
"Both a fitting tribute to what Malachy Tallack calls 'this deep attentiveness to time and place', and a vivid new species that glitters among the shoals of books about angling. As a non-angler, I was startled by his notion of 'the peculiar idea that beauty might have something to do with fishing, or that fishing might have something to do with beauty'. By the end of the book, I had the peculiar idea that the same could be true of writing about fishing." JIM CRUMLEY, author of Lakeland Wild
“Malachy Tallack’s Illuminated by Water is a beautiful book. But that’s not nearly enough, since it is necessary to say why this is so. First, the book’s language is exquisite, not affected, not precious but perfectly matched to its subject. The tone is friendly and inviting, if not cordial, and of course it has the quality that can’t be faked. It is knowledgeable. It is not about fishing so much as the wonder of what it is like to be human, and as such, Illuminated by Water is profound and a delight.” CRAIG NOVA, author of Double Solitaire and Brook Trout and the Writing Life
“Illuminated by Water is a masterful testament of what it means to be a modern angler. Tallack takes you on a journey, sometimes over moors of heather and lonely trout-filled lochs, other times along urbanized canals to hunt for pike. Along the way, he draws you into his world with haunting prose steeped in time spent on waters and love of sport.” STEPHEN SAUTNER, author of Fish on Fish Off and A Cast in the Woods
"Like the best anglers, Malachy Tallack is always wondering what's over the next hill or around the next bend in the river. It hardly matters whether it's a brown trout of six inches or six pounds, a fat carp or a silvery salmon, it's the curiosity, the mystery that pulls him along. And we're glad to take the journey with him. Illuminated by Water belongs on the shelf with W. D. Wetherell's Vermont River and Luke Jennings' Blood Knots." MURRAY CARPENTER, author of Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us
“An immersive dip into the world of angling. Tallack’s prose is soothing, and asks us to stop and think deeply about what connects us to nature.” LYNDSIE BOURGON, author of Tree Thieves
"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