Brilliant, witty, perceptive essays about fly-fishing, the natural world, and life in general by the acknowledged master of fishing writers.
Proving that fishing is not just a part-time pursuit, At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman takes us through a year with America’s favorite fishing scribe, John Gierach, who dedicates himself to his passion despite his belief that “In the long run, fishing usually amounts to a lifetime of pratfalls punctuated by rare moments of perfection.”
Beginning with an early spring expedition to barely thawed Wyoming waters and ending with a New Year’s Eve trip to the Frying Pan River in Colorado, Gierach’s travels find him fishing for trout, carp, and grayling; considering the pros and cons of learning fishing from videos (“video fishing seems a little like movie sex: fun to watch, but a long way from the real thing”); pondering the ethics of sharing secret spots; and debunking the myth of the unflappable outdoorsman (“masters of stillness on the outside, festering s***holes of uncertainty just under the surface”).
With an appreciation of the highs, the lows, and all points between, Gierach writes about the fishing life with wisdom, grace, and the well-timed wisecrack. As he says, “The season never does officially end here, but it ends effectively, which means you can fish if you want to and if you can stand it, but you don’t have to.” As any Gierach fan knows, want to and have to are never very far apart.
These 20 magazine columns--most from Field & Stream--follow Gierach's year of outings in Northern Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, and include some of his best strokes of style since Sex, Death and Flyfishing. Each travelogue plucks the required notes of Gierach's angling country song formula: a conversational, self-deprecating voice; good-humored reporting from the Eden streams of the West, appreciation for his local angling fraternity. Fishing-is-the-antidote-to-real-life is the axis of every Gierach collection, and several of these stories are convincing as well as entertaining. The angling reader already understands perfectly well the real reason Gierach is perched on the back of an ATV with a Labrador retriever riding through heavy May mud to reach remote ranchland ponds. As Gierach gets older, his reach into his angling hat is slower but he pulls out better rabbits:"If you wanted a fish that could sip white wine and discuss Italian poetry, you'd look for a trout. If you need a ditch dug, you'd hire a carp." The title reference is to a streamside marker dedicated to a deceased conservationist that Gierach seems to acknowledge is the epitaph for anyone who, like himself, spends his life in the thrall of something as gloriously inconsequential as fly-fishing.
Another book of memories
You can't help but like John's books, especially if you fly fish. I have read them all because I do,but there is the clear fact that John Gierach is a darn good writer. Taking to heart to write about what you know, he has perfected the art. Yet fly anglers read his books because he touches on the beautiful places we go, the dedication we all possess,and the hope and magic we all put our faith in by tying on a hook with hair and feathers on it. At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman includes all of the above along with my favorite cast of characters that John calls friends and the sprinkling of guides and anglers we all have met on our own adventures. Gierach always makes me laugh and better yet makes me want to get back out on the stream as quick as I can. So no higher praise can be given an author in my world of fly fishing.