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Book Review – “Moving Water: Reflections of an Artist”

Fly Fishing Books

The young warrior in the foreground is Dave Hall’s grandfather in 1906 outside Boston. Fifty years later he gave Dave his first fly rod (glass), along with a Medalist reel and box of flies. In the background on the porch is Dave’s great, great grandfather —the sporting artist Thomas H. Snow.

In my perfect dream, I’m sitting in a rocker on the porch of a farmhouse. My legs are raised. With my ankles crossed, the heels of my boots lean against the porch railing. My companion of twelve years, a black Lab named Buck, lies beside the rocker. His big head is cradled on the top of paws mottled with gray. Set between two spruce notches, my eight-foot Leonard waits patiently on the wall behind us. Now and then, I open an eye to gaze out over the grassy knoll that stretches down to the edge of a stream that contains wild brown trout. The evening hatch, as reliable as the workings of a Swiss clock, will soon begin.

Read a few lines of Dave Hall’s book, Moving Water, while musing over one of his many paintings, and you too will slip into a dreamlike state.

Dave was born into a family of artists. While he lived in rural New England, his grandfathers instilled in him a love of the natural world, which is evident in each brushstroke of the oil renderings that grace the pages of Moving Water.

Thomas Snow Sporting Art

“Brook Trout,” 1870s: Thomas H. Snow was an avid sportsman and oil painter. His works include upland game, trout and a favorite subject — his bird dogs.

My wife and I have spent much of our married life at our camp in western Maine, a region of the country that brook trout have called home since before the first Wabanaki paddled a birch bark canoe across Parmachenee Lake. So, it’s no wonder that I was hooked on Moving Water, when to my surprise, a few pages in, I found a squaretail painted by Dave Hall’s great grandfather, Thomas Henry Snow, in whose memory the book is dedicated.

If there is one thing that my fellow brothers and sisters of the Angle can agree upon, it is that thrill each time we feel that tug on our lines.

Perhaps it is the briefness of these encounters that make each occasion all the more compelling. For those of us of a certain age, it is the transitory nature of life itself that makes casting a bit of fur or fluff so special.

Dave Hall understands this. His thoughtful verse and muted landscapes capture the preciousness of our fleeting time on this fragile planet we share with those obstinate creatures that Winslow Homer once described as “bright fluviatile flowers…made beautiful, the Lord only knows why….”

To paraphrase Judge Voelker, those of us who take up a fly rod do so as much for the fish as for the wild places where they can be found. The paintings found in Moving Water are of just such places.

Dave Hall’s love for family, friends, wild fish, and the places where they can be found, permeates each page of this book. Like the ring of a trout’s rise, this thin volume beckons you to contemplate what lies under its surface.

There is wisdom to be found here. Although we’ve never met, I’d bet a Sunday dinner that Dave Hall is a quiet man, confident in his skills, but not boastful. In Moving Water, he does not preach. With few words and understated art, Dave Hall captures the joy as well as the heartbreak of a life on the water.

There are many fine books concerning the how, when or where of our sport. Far fewer are willing to tackle the why of it all. Dave Hall does just that. In Moving Water, he has written a prayer book for those of us, who like Norman Maclean’s family, find no “clear line between religion and fly fishing.”