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AT THE GRAVE OF THE UNKNOWN FISHERMAN by John Gierach

AT THE GRAVE OF THE UNKNOWN FISHERMAN

By John Gierach

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-2992-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Through a fishing year with Gierach (Standing in a River Waving a Stick, 1999, etc.), one of the most—many would say the most—enjoyable outdoorsmen writing today.

“Most days I'm a perfectly happy fisherman—it's my mission in life,” he writes. But Gierach is also a curmudgeon and an Old Fart, which is akin to Old Soul, though of the deeply irascible sort. (“Disapproval has always been a source of encouragement for me,” writes this latter-day Demosthenes in waders.) While there is a goodly amount of grousing in these pages over the general decline in everything from free time (“If you're feeling driven, you have to ask yourself, Who's doing the driving?”) to fly shops, Gierach still knows how to take great pleasure in the particulars of his chosen sport: the Green Drake hatches that seem to never end, maps that take you farther away and deeper in, the secret personalities of fishing journals, the specific heft of a cane rod, the quiet joy of working the margins, the unstable edges of the profoundly rural, where “the fishing is good but not too good. This is the kind of spot that slips nicely between the cracks.” Gierach proves once again to be attentive to the atmosphere of his surroundings, to the character of different firewoods, to the American plum and the March Brown and the Townshend’s solitaire. And he provides great encouragement to get out and walk the water in all seasons and conditions. The strange and unexpected days astream often yield gems (“a few pale fish in a pale landscape”) and sudden insights: “If you don’t give a dog a specific job, he’ll improvise one for himself and it will invariably be fun. There's a lesson there.”

That’s not the only essential lesson imparted by these musings, which convey the wisdom of fishermen who “spent so much time neglecting more important things that they eventually redefined importance.”