Book review: 'A Fly Rod of Your Own'

A decade or so ago, I was pretty sure I’d outgrown John Gierach books. Don’t mistake that to mean that I didn’t appreciate his essays—I always have. Certain authors over time have left behind indelible footprints on my reading soul, and Gierach was, and is, certainly one of them. It’s just that a guy can only handle so many tales about far-flung fly fishing travel, stories of chasing trout with good friends and the inevitable, yet poigniant, piece on lodge life or float planes or vehicles.

At some point, I figured, I needed to actually live some of these adventures myself, and not just read Gierach’s somewhat curmudgeon-ish recounts of great fishing adventures. So I put his books down. I didn’t read the new ones that came out, purposely. I wanted to live, not read, good fishing.

And I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the good fortune to do quite a bit of good fishing over the years in some far-reaching fishy places. I’ve made some wonderful friends that, much like Gierach and his posse, get together in different places just about every year to wet a line, tip a glas or two and catch up on things.

And then I saw the press release, announcing Gierach’s newest book, “A Fly Rod of Your Own.”

I picked it up, and I read it.

Here’s the take-away. John Gierach, in his wonderfully simple yet soulfully complex manner, offered up to me a map to adventure all those years ago. Since I last read a Gierach piece, I’ve visited the Canadian north—four times (although I’ve yet to visit his beloved Labrador for the brookies we both love). I’ve hovered over the Inside Passage in a DeHavilland Beaver, jetted to South America twice, Austrailia once, chased bones and permit on the flats in the Caribbean half a dozen times … and ventured into my own little corner of the trout world countless times. I’ve lived. I’ve fished.

When I picked up this newest book, it all made sense. Gierach’s latest offering won’t disappoint die-hard fans—it’s full of thoughtful work on adventure fishing that will give you a case of the wonders. But it’s just as likely to make you mist up a bit when you read about how, even as an older guy, he cherished his mother’s approval when he told her he broke down and bought a Jeep. He stuck with his familiar formula—easy-to-navigate essays that are good for a dose or two at a time. It’s easy to put down when something pressing comes up, but just as easy to pick up when the mood strikes.

He still writes about fishing with friends in his home waters, and in more distant locales with people like Jim Babb (author of “River Music,” my favorite book of fishing essays ever crafted) and his steadfast hosts at his favorite lodge in Labrador. He still writes about encounters with everyday people (because, if you had to describe Gierach, you’d have to describe him just that way), and he still writes simply and beautifully about the things many of us might consider mundane.

Until we go fishing. And then, John Gierach is the voice in our heads.

“A Fly Rod of Your Own” is a lovely book, and if you’re a Gierach fan, it’s in your wheelhouse. If haven’t given the bard of Lyons, Colo., a shot yet, it’s a good introduction to good writing and storytelling that will likely inspire you to do some fishing—and living—of your own.

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.