Vol 7 No. 5 - October 25, 2006

'Dances with Sharks': Angling for the spirit

The book takes readers on a cosmic rollercoaster ride from the early days of the Mayan Empire to the end of the world.

By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

I have always enjoyed reading about fishing. What appeals to me is not just how to and where to, but writing that illuminates the whole of the experience of angling — the adventure, human drama and, ultimately, the spirit of the journey that define a fisherman. This is the kind of angling literature that attracts me and why I read “Dances with Sharks,” by Dave Ames, from cover to cover.

Ames, a fishing guide and writer, runs a bed-and-breakfast near his home one mile from the Continental Divide in Montana. He writes regularly for magazines and this is his third book. In “Dances with Sharks,” Ames takes us on a cosmic rollercoaster ride from the early days of the Mayan Empire through the end of time on a Montana trout stream and to an all-too-real life and death experience with bonefish, sharks and prostrate cancer. It’s just the kind of literature that I appreciate most, writing that offers up the best in fishing, adventure, and learning, with just the right amount of humor and human drama.

Part one, The Jaguar God, tells of Ames’ experiences teaching ancestors of the Mayans the fine points of guiding anglers in Mexico’s Ascension Bay. We’re transported from a frozen northwest winter to a bonefish flat where the present day Yucatan Peninsula meshes with its misty Mayan past.

Ames says it best, "The clucking flamingos were so close I could smell the heat baking in their ripe wet feathers, at the birds feet bonefish were half out of the water and wiggling like silver snakes.

“In the Mayan world everything was alive, and nothing was as it seemed. The sky was a serpent, directions were colors. The curved earth was the shell on the back of a slowly crawling turtle. Reality had layers; alternate universes that co-existed in the same space-time fabric, which meant there were two sides to everything."

Mixing fly fishing with the humor, Spanish lessons and a metaphysical history of the region, replete with universal constants, Jaguar and Shark gods, Ames will have you laughing and thinking on many levels.

Part two, The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same, follows fly fishermen Duke and the Mayor as they push off for a trout fishing trip on the Smith River in Montana. The salmon flies are hatching, and in the Mayor’s own words, it was "a good reason to miss work." This is no ordinary fly fishing trip as the duo catches trout, has a discussion on the state of the world "politically speaking" and finishes with the end of the world one cold, dark morning.

The book ends with Dances With Sharks on Redcoat Key, an island somewhere on the edge of the Gulf Stream. Quartered at the Bight of Old MacTavish this is a tale of bonefish that can smell you coming, of gypsy death moths that remind of us of our mortality and of Ames, trapped in a woman’s body, coming to terms with a horrible disease that he is determined to conquer. The sharks here are both real and metaphorical and will keep you glued to the pages.

Through all the adventures, both lighthearted and morose, Ames keeps his eye and his humor on the prize. There’s a perfect mix of fishing excitement, entertainment, wit, philosophy and a delightful gonzo view of world affairs that will keep the lights on late at night. “Dances With Sharks” is published by Lodge Pole Press. To obtain a copy call 1-800-874-4171, or visit their web site at www.lodgepolepress.com

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