Peter Ryan’s first book, Wild South: Hunting and Fly-Fishing in the Southern Hemisphere is one of those hunting books that deserves a place alongside books by great authors like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and John Updike (some of my favorites). Reading books like this are sometimes hard for me because it brings about an immense amount of joy in the art of reading them and some lament in the realization that my own writing will never be able to compare to the ability that Ryan has been able to craft in this book.
As a writer, I grapple with every word, every sentence and putting the vision down that I have in my mind is an absolute battle. Ryan makes it look so easy. Wild South draws you in through small glimpses of his adventures hunting and fly-fishing through the Southern hemisphere. The words Ryan uses work together in perfect harmony to reveal the passion that he has for being out in the faraway lands that have provided the stories that fill this wonderful tome.
Wild South is a collection of hunting and fishing tales covering Ryan’s travels from his homeland in New Zealand but also his travels to South Africa, South America, Australia, Papua New Guinea. His excitement for his homeland of New Zealand is palpable and you can see through his words that he clearly pays attention to the little details as well as the big picture. Ryan has a true sense of what is important and has an ability to drill down upon the details that are important in any given excursion with a rare ability to see things that I most never see. “Saxon brought the cock bird back and as I took it gently, he caught my finger and gave it a playful little chatter with his front teeth before trotting off to resume his beat. It’s his signature move, something he only does with those he likes.”
While I may not get to fly-fish or hunt in some of the faraway lands that Ryan has left his boot prints upon, I am inspired by his stories and by his ability to capture the essence of days in the field and by his attention to the details that matter when we are out in our wild lands. His book is filled with the sights, sounds and smells that craft truly epic stories and leave the reader craving the opportunity to get out into these lands of the Wild South. “Walking a river for trout is relaxing simply because of the intense concentration involved — in navigating slick rocks, in spotting the lazy sway of a tail through a brief window in churning water, in the final moments of landing a difficult fish. This kind of focus drives everyday cares from the mind. The relaxation fishing brings is not a case of thinking about nothing, but of thinking about one thing and nothing else.”
Peter Ryan is the kind of man I would join in the field any day of the year at anytime in my lifetime. He gets what it is like to immerse himself into the outdoors and he has the appreciation of the small things that truly make up why so many of us spend so many days each year outside in pursuit of our passions. Ryan is a man who is living the life well-lived and his book is one that I cannot recommend enough not just because it is a book about the outdoors, but because it is a book that inspires me to be a better hunter as well as a better writer.
Kevin Paulson is the founder and CEO of HuntingLife.com. His passion for hunting began at age five, when he began hunting alongside his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography, and hunting trips around the world. HuntingLife.com is a national news source for hunting, conservation, gear reviews, and the pursuit of a well-lived life.