MIAMI -- In 1653, there was "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton. In the 1960s and '70s, there was the "Fishing Encyclopedia" by A.J. McClane. Now comes "A Passion for Tarpon" by Andy Mill of Boca Raton, Fla.
Mill, 57, the most successful tournament angler to wield a fly rod in saltwater and a former Olympic skier, weaves 30 years of obsession for a single fish into a 500-page magnum opus that is at once a scientific reference volume; lyrical narrative; practical how-to guide; thumbprint biographical sketch series; and a photographic masterpiece.
As if that weren't enough reason to fork over $100 to Wild River Press, the book's introduction and foreword were contributed by fly-fishing legend Lefty Kreh and former President George H.W. Bush, respectively.
Despite the high profiles of several of the book's subjects -- author Tom McGuane; IGFA Hall of Famers Kreh, Stu Apte and Steve Huff; world record-setter Billy Pate -- the reader will gain new insights into these fly-fishing greats in one-on-one interviews with Mill and publisher, Tom Pero.
Among the gems in this new book: probably the longest monologue ever recorded by the publicity shy Huff, widely considered one of the greatest flats-fishing guides in the sport.
After describing for the author his instincts about the fishiness of a particular flat or channel, Huff summed up the singular appeal of tarpon.
"If tarpon lived on a mountaintop in the Himalayas, we would all be going there," he said.
Another memorable chapter is an interview with Tom Evans, reputed to be one of the greatest fly-rod anglers in the world who almost no one has heard of. Any angler enraptured by catching really big fish on fly tackle will derive a wealth of helpful nuances and techniques from Evans' decades of success besting tarpon and blue marlin on very light tippets.
In one poignant passage, Evans laments the degradation of his favorite tarpon grounds -- Homosassa on Florida's west coast -- but explains why he keeps returning to fish with the same guide every year. Ironically, just as the book was going to press last spring, this septuagenarian angler caught a world-record 194-pound tarpon on 12-pound tippet.
For fishing wonks, there are chapters on the history of fly-fishing for tarpon and the biology, ecology and management of the species. There are diagrams of fishing situations and illustrations of popular fly patterns. Color photographs by Miami fly-fisher/writer/photographer Pat Ford are interspersed in the vivid prose.
Pero convinced Mill to begin working on the book following Mill's traumatic divorce from tennis great Chris Evert in 2006.
"It took four years to write it, but I think we got it right," Mill said. "It's not my book. Everybody came to the table and what we have here is the most complete story that can be told at this point. It's more than just a fishing book. It's a book for all walks of the outdoors."