Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Ninety-two in the shade: why did that sound so familiar?
I was enduring the heat this weekend as I removed and resurfaced the woodwork on a used high-end canoe that I recently purchased. It was not particularly difficult or strenuous: unbolting, sanding, staining, and re-varnishing the few small pieces of actual wood in the boat generally would not be considered hard work. Yet, I was sweating profusely and struggling with occasional but painfully aggravating hand cramps. And this was in the full shade of my breezy back yard! Frequent stops and a surprising number of cold beers were employed but proved ineffective toward making what would seem an enjoyable weekend-day dawdle even close to comfortable.
As much as I wanted to take the canoe out the next day, to admire my handiwork, and savor the glide and responsiveness of a paddle craft so sexy I’m not sure I should be allowed to own it, I could not bring myself to venture out into the open sun. That pretty much sums up what the weather is like here in South Florida right now. It goes without saying I did not do any flyfishing either.
Actually, I knew exactly why that phrase sounded familiar. “Ninety-two in the Shade” is the title of an epic piece of fishing-related fiction written in 1973by Thomas McGuane. In addition to being one of my favorite writers, McGuane is also an avid and accomplished fly angler. Possibly those two facts are related? He knows of what he writes, and he writes incredibly well. In fact, if I could say anything negative about this particular piece of his works, it would be that his vocabulary stumped me so many times that I needed a dictionary by my side to read it.
The story is about the education of a rookie saltwater fishing guide in Key West. Now, remember, this was written in 1973, which is before big-time saltwater fly fishing would begin to take off. For some, it was already an addiction, and McGuane was fully involved. It is obvious when reading the book. There is much more to the story than just fishing, of course, but it really captures the many dimensions of guiding, of the big-buck clients, and of the Keys. At times you can even smell the saltwater flats, or at least I could. McGuane himself adapted the story to a screenplay and personally directed a movie of the same name in 1975.
Although the film was full of big-name movie star actors, I have never watched it. I simply do not want to alter my memory of the first time I read the book.
If you are curious about saltwater flyfishing, as done in the Florida Keys, and want a peek behind the curtain, this would not be a bad place to look. Just be aware that it portrays things from a rather skewed, dark, and cynical perspective.