- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

In no particular order, here are four worthwhile new books that are fine teachers and good reading companions to help make our outdoor recreation a little easier.

The Backyard Nature Photographer’s Handbook, by Aubrey Watson ($17.95, Cold Tree Press, soft cover, e-mail [email protected]). Watson’s effort is a thorough one as he presents 115 pages crammed with invaluable information for people who can’t spend days and weeks in forest and field studying the wonderful craft of nature photography. Watson shows us how to stay in our backyards and produce superb nature photographs outside our door.

You’ll learn how to use feeders and nesting boxes to attract wildlife, how to “shoot” birds and butterflies, maybe even bring a hummingbird close to the lens. You’ll be introduced to various cameras — yes, there’s a brief section on increasingly popular digital photography — and the various lenses and clever tricks of the trade that can result in breathtaking photos.

If there’s a negative to Watson’s book it’s the lack of color. It would have been nice to see lots of color plates instead of only black and white illustrations. Alas, color printing is very expensive. But don’t let that keep you from purchasing the book. It’s worth every bit of $17.95.

America’s Wildlife Refuges — Lands of Promise, text by Jeanne L. Clark, photography by Tom and Pat Leeson, Jason and Gene Stone ($24.95, Graphic Arts Center Publishing, Portland, Ore., soft cover, information: www.gacpc.com, 503/226-2402).

Is it possible to pay proper homage to all our great national wildlife refuges, located on tiny Pacific atolls and offshore islands in Maine, broad western deserts or rolling surf and beaches in the Gulf of Mexico? It would be a Herculean task, but let me hasten to add that this wonderful all-color presentation is simply stunning.

As you settle back and begin to read, you’ll suddenly see a family of northern otters, or happen upon a wonderful photo of a brace of black ducks swimming off into a Chincoteague Island, Va., sunset. Read on and now you won’t mind being distracted by a fine photo of a green-winged teal bursting from the water’s surface. Then simply swoon as you read about Rachel Carson while glancing at a tidal stream meandering through a lush, green Atlantic marsh. All our priceless refuges are covered in word and breathtaking color photography.

I’ll even forgive the publisher for not catching a double spread on pages 20 and 21 showing a broad photo of western grebes in the water. Imagine, the photo was actually printed upside down.

Everything else is superbly done, whether it’s a visit to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, going deep into Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp, or watching bighorn sheep at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, it doesn’t matter. You’ll be delighted with every refuge you focus on.

Successful Saltwater Fishing Tactics, by George Poveromo ($24.95, GP Productions, Inc., 9930 NW 59th Court, Parkland, Fla.). It’s likely that every serious saltwater fisherman in the land knows Poveromo. He’s a senior editor for Salt Water Sportsman magazine, the country’s best for marine anglers, and his readers are legion.

In the space of 123 pages (ignore the irritating advertisements in the back of the book that should never have appeared because you didn’t get the book gratis), Poveromo does a fine job talking about and illustrating each chapter, starting with the weather and those intriguing solunar tables that fishermen pay attention to. He writes about water temperatures, trolling for big-game fish, casting for smaller species, chumming, jigging, using planers, circle hooks, light tackle, heavy tackle, lures of all types and much, much more. All of it is illustrated nicely with black/white photos. Valuable sequential photography is used to teach the novice step-by-step methods of rigging baits or using lures.

Poveromo knows his stuff, but be aware that this is not a starter fishing book for tidal river fishermen hereabouts. It’s better suited for serious Chesapeake Bay and ocean fishing.

The Orvis Fly Casting Guide, by Tom Deck ($39.95, The Lyons Press, Guilford, Conn., hard-cover, 246 pages). It never ceases to amaze me how little more than 5 percent of America’s sportfishing community — the fly anglers — are targeted by 90 percent of all the fishing books that are published. Could be it’s the well-heeled fly angler who doesn’t mind reading to enlarge his horizons, while far too many conventional tackle users believe they already know all there is to know.

Either way, here is Deck’s thorough and eminently readable tome, superbly illustrated with color photos and terrific teaching-aid sketches. Deck covers it all, from the fundamentals of fly casting to refining your stroke, then moving on to flats fishing, bass fishing, wade casting, sight casting, skip and roll casting, spey casting and casting in strong winds. It’s all nicely taken care of. Deck is a master of his craft. I do not hesitate to recommend this fine book.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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