Dan Brown looks like he was assembled in an underground laboratory at the Orvis Headquarters.
Tall and clean cut, the Taylors Falls, Minn. native arrived for his interview in a fleece vest atop a sweat-wicking, UV protective fishing shirt. I know this for a fact, because I have the exact same shirt at home in my closet. He pulled up in a small SUV, the rear window adorned with the kind of obligatory stickers that let the world know he is indeed a fly-fisherman. Everything about Brown exposes his passion for fly-fishing. I half expected him to get out of the car with a rod tube in one hand and a hazy IPA in the other.
Brown is a long-time fishing guide and freelance writer who wrote a weekly column for the Chisago County Press for many years. He was here to promote his recently released book, a collection of 75 of those columns — And if his name sounds familiar, you’re not mistaken.
Dan Brown is also the name of the famous author of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” whose books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide. Rather than change his name to avoid confusion, Brown chose to embrace the connection, and poke fun at it. He titled his book “Da Fishi Code: Serious and Not-So-Serious Stories from da Rivers, Lakes, Fields, and Life.”
Doubling down, the cover of Brown’s book also mirrors that of the Da Vinci Code. The Mona Lisa poses prominently on the right side, a large steelhead clasped in her usually non-existent fingers. The satire seems heavy handed at first, but it dovetails nicely upon further inspection.
There’s something to be said about the brevity of a newspaper column. Writing a story in under a thousand words on a tight deadline is a little like defusing a bomb. Decisions have to be made quickly — Cut the red wire or the blue wire, and live with the outcome either way. Brown effectively balances the urgency of a weekly newspaper column with the narrative prowess of more long-form writing. The result is a book full of quick hitting, highly personal and genuinely funny stories.
In just over 200 tightly packed pages, Brown details his personal fishing and hunting experiences over the last several decades, with a few odd tales unrelated to the outdoors mixed in for good measure.
Many of his columns are “in the moment” style stories of big trout caught on the Namekagon or fighting a sturgeon on a fly rod, but he really shines in the abstract. Brown quotes Thoreau, talks about hope and the restorative qualities of nature and never misses an opportunity to describe the landscape surrounding him.
The publisher who told Norman Maclean he had too many trees in his manuscript would’ve surely rolled his eyes at “Da Fishi Code,” but Brown’s appreciation for the outdoors reads incredibly genuine, and his creative talent is legitimate.
One of the most striking stories in the book and a departure from his normal rhythm is “Two Nights in Chile.” It’s Brown’s only venture into fiction and was originally submitted to the ‘Prose for Papa’ contest, which is held annually at the Ernest Hemmingway Festival in Ketchum, Idaho. The story borrows heavily from Hemmingway’s style, but stands up on its own in spite of that.
It follows a meandering, downtrodden writer on an exotic fishing trip to Chile that isn’t going as planned. The world Brown creates around his main character is lively and vivid, so much so that you forget you’re not in the middle of a novel when the story ends. It’s worth the price of the book alone.
In an age of outdoor media where storytelling is so often cast aside in favor of the ten millionth article about how to catch spring crappies, it’s refreshing to see a book like Brown’s be published.
As we stood on the sidewalk after the interview swapping fishing stories, a passerby pointed to the book in Brown’s hand, the Mona Lisa defiant on the cover and the name “Dan Brown” in bold, golden letters just visible below Brown’s hand.
“Oh, another Da Vinci code,” the man said.
Not quite buddy — not quite.
For information on how to find “Da Fishi Code: Serious and Not-So-Serious stories from da Rivers, Lakes, Fields, and Life,” visit www.danbrowntrout.com