Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
-- Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Larry Coburn dropped by the house the other day with a copy of his brand new book under his arm, just as proud as a banty rooster and with good reason.
"Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing, the Catch-and-Release Streams," which he co-authored with University of Maryland professor Charlie Gelso, fills a hole in any Washington-area angler's library, providing just about everything a flyrodder of any skill level needs to know about the surprisingly good trout fishing in the Free State. "It reveals all the essentials," writes fly-fishing legend Lefty Kreh, "where to go, what tackle to use during each season--and how to catch these trout."
Coburn and Gelso methodically work their way through all the major Maryland catch-and-release streams and a few minor ones, from the trout-laden Gunpowder just outside Baltimore to tiny Paint Branch in Montgomery County to the mountainside Savage and Youghiogheny Rivers in Western Maryland. Each chapter includes a detailed map, driving directions, fishing regulations, stream history and description, photos, plus meticulous detail on what sorts of trout lurk there and what they like to eat.
What I particularly like about this book is the absence of fluff. The writing is clear and informative with none of the self-centered tripe that clutters most modern books about trout. Hey, you want to fly-fish for browns, brooks or rainbows in Maryland? Here's how, without any midlife crises, marriage woes or career implosions in the bargain, thank you very much indeed.
But I have other reasons for liking it, and to tell the truth would have liked it even if it wasn't very good, which it is. I like it because it represents the best in human nature, a willingness to try something new and difficult and pull it off by dint of hard work and resourcefulness.
Regular readers of this column know Coburn is one of my primary sources on a wide range of outdoors matters, from crabbing to bowhunting to fly-fishing. I first ran across him when he owned a little bait and tackle shop in the median strip of Route 1 called Laurel Fishing & Hunting that eventually was surrounded, then eaten alive by Wal-Mart, Kmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and Sports Authority.
Coburn harbored no bitterness when he bailed out of the trade, convinced he couldn't compete with the predatory pricing of Ivy League MBAs and their big box stores. He held a going-out-of-business sale and used the proceeds to buy a state-of-the-art home computer.
Before you knew it, he was working as a fishing guide a few days a week, occasionally filling in behind the counter for some of his former competitors and using the rest of his time to study financial trading, invest online (he convinced me to buy AOL, bless his heart), spray e-mails far and wide and learn about publishing.
He'd wanted to write a book about trout fishing for years but reckoned he needed a co-author. Coburn grew up on a farm in Calvert County, spent his youth working in tobacco fields and never went to college, so his writing skills are unpolished. He asked me if I wanted to work on it with him but I declined on grounds I was too busy, a bald-faced lie. I was too lazy.
Gelso, also a part-time trout fishing guide who teaches psychology at Maryland and has published several academic works on the subject, seized the opportunity. It was a good match. Gelso is an excellent trout fisherman with keen knowledge of Maryland streams and brought writing skills and some valuable experience in the publishing trade.
But much of the assembly work fell to Coburn, who carved out a little work-space in his house and taught himself to dig up research materials and draw maps on the computer. He bought a digital camera and learned how to take and process streamside photos with it. He and Gelso spent months wandering the state exploring and photographing trout streams and pounding away at the keyboard.
Coburn talked his old pal Mark Susinno, a professional artist specializing in paintings of fish, to do the cover, which shows brown, brook and rainbow trout milling around in a clear, sunlit, bug-laden pool on some sleepy Maryland stream. The picture prominently features a log-sized brown trout, a premier species in Maryland's catch-and-release streams, which Coburn proudly notes "contains all the colors of the Maryland flag" in its mottles and spots.
The co-authors basically put the book together themselves, signing on to publish it with an outfit in Woodbine, Md., called K&D Publishing, but paying all the printing costs up front themselves. By the time the truck pulled into Coburn's yard last week with the first 3,000 copies, 1,000 already had been sold to various fishing shops and specialty distributors and only needed to be delivered.
"We've paid ourselves back," crowed Coburn, "and we still have 2,000 books left to sell."
Well, good for them. It's the American way, after all. A little ingenuity, a bit of risk, a measure of bravery and a lot of hard work. "I'm really proud of what we did," said Coburn. He should be.
"Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing, the Catch-and-Release Streams," is $15.95 at local fishing and outdoor stores or available by mail through C&G Flyfishing Publications; e-mail LDCburn@AOL.com or call 301-490-7170.