by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
There are many books on fishing, yet only a few on the relationship between fishing and mental health. Paul Quinnett, friend of AMHF and expert on suicide prevention: Pavolv’s Trout and Darwin’s Bass. Centuries ago, another fisherman, Izaac Walton, penned his Compleat Angler—a celebration of the gratitude and joy that fishing brings to one’s life. Walton found angling to be a helpful antidote to the English Civil War which was occurring all around him.
Now we have another book to add to this grand tradition—a readable and inspiring look at one man’s love affair with the fishing resources of the Catskill Mountains of New York. Ed Ostapczuk, engineer and math teacher in his two professions, has written Ramblings of a Charmed Circle Flyfisher. Unlike most fishing books, it is not a how-to-guide or a kiss-and-tell of places to fish. Rather, it is a paean of gratitude to the joys of fishing and the uplifting qualities of this dwindling sport.
Ostapczuk’s fishing life began in New Jersey, fishing in streams where the occasional stocked trout co-existed with thrown-away tires and other refuse. An article in Outdoor Life magazine in 1968 beckoned him to the beauty of the Catskill Mountains; trips with lifelong friends (the “New Jersey Boys”) initiated a lifelong bond with this singular part of the earth—later made permanent by a job nearby and raising a family near the clean waters.
Like Izaak Walton’s book, the themes of gratitude and love of fishing rise on every page of “Charmed Circle.” While we are learning about wild trout that live on small feeder streams, larger rivers whose flow was recently changed by Hurricane Irene, or a small pond created by a need for roadside gravel, we also get a view of Ostapczuk’s mentors, family, and extensive network of friends.
“Charmed Circle” is like the streams of the Catskills: beckoning us to return for greater spiritual nourishment. It is a book that, for me, completes a trilogy of favorite angling authors: Izaak Walton, Paul Quinnett, and now, Ed Ostapczuk.