The Believer: A Review

The Believer follows the author’s fishing adventures for a year.
Joe Albanese

The Believer is New York Times bestselling author David Coggins’ second book on fly fishing, and the fly fishing lifestyle. He follows up his hit, The Optimist, by taking the readers along with him as travels throughout North America, South America, and Europe in pursuit of an assortment of species, including some salty favorites.

Coggins ushers us with him as he journeys to Argentina, Cuba, Belize, Norway, Spain, Scotland, and Wyoming, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Connecticut and the Catskills here in the States. He chases a variety of fish including various species of trout, salmon, tarpon, permit, and bonefish. Of course, I found the saltwater endeavors to be the most compelling, but I also greatly enjoyed his tales of the salmon rivers of Europe. Mostly, I wished I could tag along with him as he crossed the globe—and ignored the tyranny of his cell phone.

Though Coggins may be more well-traveled than the typical angler, he makes a point to note his skills as a fly fisherman are decidedly more average. That is, he doesn’t always succeed and he shares those failures with the reader. My favorite chapter detailed Coggins’ time in Belize, fishing flats I’ve only dreamt of. I rooted for him as he experienced the indifference of permit. I felt his disappointment as one missed his fly. I experienced his elation as he finally connected, on a following trip. Permit, man.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Coggins’ descriptions of Cuba. Fishing those unpressured flats and backwaters has always been an aspiration of mine, but for myriad reasons including geopolitical upheaval and family obligations I’m not sure it will ever happen for me. Fortunately, I can tag along in The Believer, catching tarpon and taking in the sights and sounds of Havana from the comfort of my living room. How about a Hoyo de Monterrey on a rooftop bar?

Beyond his skillful depictions of the fisheries, Coggins does an excellent job capturing the flavor of each locale. He portrays the unique culture of each area, providing the reader with a sense they are strolling through Barcelona’s Paseo de Gracia or enjoying a late supper of lamb followed by a good Scotch in Inverness. And he deftly describes those that help him along in his angling journey, reminding you of those you’ve met in your own fishing escapades.

But perhaps the most relatable aspect is how Coggins tries to balance the responsibilities of life with his fondness for fishing. It’s a struggle we all go through as our age advances, and the author is fighting the good fight better than most. Overall, readers that enjoy stories of angling adventures will find The Believer to be an enjoyable, worthwhile read.

The Believer is available on April 9.

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