Wide and Deep By Randy Spencer

Book-review-Wide-and-Deep.review.Jun.14

He’s back. Maine’s award winning author, singer and song writer, and Master Fishing Guide Randy Spencer has just published his second book. Not particularly a sequel, the new Wide and Deep picks up where Where Cool Waters Flow left off.

More reminiscence than memoir, Wide and Deep strings together 17 essays that Spencer himself calls “tales and recollections.” Written in Spencer’s spare and direct prose, these are stories of the people, places, events and mystique of a guide’s life in one of the world’s iconic sporting regions.

Though connected by fishing – fly casting for brook trout, trolling for salmon, or bait casting for smallmouth bass – this is not a book about fishing. It is a book about people who love fishing and love life amid the wilds. Spencer’s passion for his job as a Master Guide forms the bonds that link him to his clients, fellow guides, and neighbors in the village of Grand Lake Stream, ME.

Spencer’s deep and abiding love for his work extends beyond the business of fishing and includes the woods and waters he travels and every character he meets, whether human or moose, raven, beaver or bobcat. He also displays a profound respect for the native peoples of the territory. Their lore and their ways grace nearly every one of his stories.

As a package of tales, Wide and Deep is illuminated by informative side bars, carefully chosen favorite recipes, and 14 pages of color and historic black-and-white photos. These extra pieces serve as a garnish supporting and covering the whole.

For those familiar with Where Cool Waters Flow, Wide and Deep seems just a shade darker. The acknowledged passing of friends, colleagues, mentors and even chance encountered strangers points out the variations of gray in every life.

This is not a negative. This is reality. The acknowledgement that life – all life – is fleeting and fragile makes the stories more precious. Whether writing of people, animals, fish or waterways, Spencer’s recollections speak for the invaluable gift that is a life lived on one’s own terms.

In these early weeks of the 2014 fishing season, when the trout are rising, the salmon lunging after baitfish, and the bass moving to spawning grounds, reading Wide and Deep quickens the pulse of anyone who loves dawn on the water, a filling campfire lunch, or sunset on a far shore. The great strength of Wide and Deep lies in its power to endure. Like fishing season itself, the power of Spencer’s stories is that they can come around again and again. Read ten or twenty years hence, they will reveal the same truths as they do today.

The likes of Lola Sockabasin or Drummond Humchuck may never pass this way again, but in the vision and words of Randy Spencer, they and the essential elements of the Grand Lakes watershed will live on. As John Bailey wrote in Reflections on the Water’s Edge, “No angler merely watches nature in a passive way. He enters into its very existence.” Randy Spencer entered Maine’s Grand Lake region and shook hands with its soul.

Spencer is a gifted storyteller. Lucky anglers will read and understand Wide and Deep. Really lucky anglers will someday share a canoe with him.

 

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