The Dawn Patrol Diaries


The Dawn Patrol Diaries

Fly-Fishing Journeys under the Korean DMZ

James Card

Outdoor Lives Series

264 pages
30 photographs


September 2024


$24.95 Pre-order

About the Book

While working as an English teacher and freelance journalist in South Korea for twelve years, James Card explored remote mountain valleys with a fly rod. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, he discovered pristine streams holding rare native trout. Only a few hours from Seoul, Card spent years fly-fishing these streams completely alone. Eventually he shared these experiences with people from around the world, as the only fly-fishing guide in the country. Whether fishing alone or guiding clients, he often felt like he was on patrol, scouting new streams in remote valleys, many of which are near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

In The Dawn Patrol Diaries Card writes about fly-fishing as well as South Korean landscape and culture. His travels range from the borders of the DMZ to inland mountain trout streams, from the rugged southern coast to the tidal flats of the western coast. He goes fly-fishing where battles of the Korean War were fought and offers vivid descriptions of the last wildlands in South Korea as well as insightful observations on the perils facing Korean cities, villages, and farms.

Author Bio

James Card lived in South Korea for twelve years working as a freelance journalist and fly-fishing guide. He has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, The Drake, and other publications.


“An immersive firsthand account of the enigma that is angling in South Korea, rich with insights into the country’s complicated history, fascinating culture, and resilient nature.”—Stephen Sautner, author of Fish On, Fish Off

“In this book James Card puts his passion, curiosity, and tenacity as an explorer (and fishing fanatic) on full display. It is equal parts natural and cultural history, fly-fishing diary, and homage to his adopted home. Card writes with depth, wit, and deep reverence, and anyone who reads this book will be inspired to visit this paradoxical land of dense humanity and rugged nature, probably packing a fishing rod when they do.”—Steve Hemkens, vice president of global brand strategy for Orvis

“James Card has written a marvelous book, a classic travel-adventure tale that takes readers on a fascinating journey into the rugged mountains of South Korea in search of exotic fish. He finds his fish, but even more, the expatriate Card discovers a rapidly modernizing country whose people and steadily shrinking natural landscapes he learns to love. With his lean, powerful prose, his keen appreciation of nature, and his embrace of risk in the wild, Card is reminiscent of a young Hemingway. Both armchair travelers and lovers of the outdoors will find much to treasure in The Dawn Patrol Diaries.”—Fen Montaigne, author of Reeling in Russia

“James Card may not be the first young American to fall in love with Korea and its people while teaching English there—but he’s certainly unique in turning the experience into a years-long fishing adventure. From spearfishing saltwater fish on Korea’s southern islands to fly-fishing the streams on the edge of the demilitarized zone, Card’s angling memoir brings to life the history, culture, and landscapes of Korea. This is a fishing story like none other.”—Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Country and editor in chief of Sierra

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Romanization and Conversion Note
1. The Red Quest
2. Archipelago of Sword and Spear
3. Fishing the Pusan Perimeter
4. The Boy at Toad-Swarm River
5. Escape Country
6. Piscine Doppelgängers
7. Bear Medicine
8. Field-Expedient Pattern Recognition
9. Under the DMZ
10. The River of Records
11. Into the Karst Kingdom
12. The X-Trout of the Sohan Shut-In
13. The War against Rivers
14. The Child, the Dog, the Ape, and the Dead
15. Little Two-Named River
16. Ninth Station Coda

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