Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life


245 pages
ISBN 0-14-301565-6
DDC 799.17'57




Illustrations by Ross MacDonald
Reviewed by A.J. Pell

A.J. Pell is rector of Christ Church in Hope, B.C., editor of the
Canadian Evangelical Review, and an instructor of Liturgy, Anglican
Studies Programme at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.


Catch and Release is the account of a fly-fishing conversion experience.
Kingwell, a “young” celebrity philosopher at the University of
Toronto, builds the book around a weekend of fly-fishing on a secret
lake near Kelowna, B.C. During the excursion, Kingwell, his father, his
two brothers, and a friend fish, bond, and reminisce. Kingwell starts
the weekend as a conscientious objector to fishing, and leaves with both
a love of fly-fishing and a deep appreciation of what it contributes to
male human existence.

But the first chapter, “This Book Is Not About Fishing,” forewarns
the reader that the scope of Kingwell’s thinking and writing is much
wider. Fly-fishing becomes both a metaphor for reflective living and the
epiphanic experience that leads to his own reflections. Love, patience,
companionship, purpose, family, procrastination, excellence, loss, and
violence are some of the areas of life that the author examines and
ponders. Izaak Walton, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Viscount Edward Grey, Martin
Heidegger, and William Wordsworth are a few of the notable authors who
appear to aid his philosophic musings. Thus the reader learns not about
fly-fishing for trout, although the uninitiated may pick up a thing or
two, but something about the meaning of life, just as the subtitle

The writing has similarities with that of Nick Lyons, a retired English
professor and noted fly-fishing writer, moving easily from fishing to
philosophy, from memoir to self-examination. The reader is drawn into a
relaxed yet demanding pondering of life’s important and incidental
realities and is encouraged to slow down long enough to think about life
rather than react to it or drift with it.


Kingwell, Mark., “Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,