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by John Gierach

Pub Date: May 17th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9175-0
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A prolific fly-fishing expert and nature writer dispenses hard-won field-and-stream wisdom.

Few writers, if any, have written about the implications of fly-fishing as eloquently as Ernest Hemingway in The Big Two-Hearted River, but Gierach (Fool’s Paradise, 2008, etc.) brings detailed insight and a sense of humor to the subject. With a title taken from an Annie Dillard quote (“There is no shortage of good days; it’s good lives that are hard to come by”), the book is a collection of fondly remembered fishing trips and random fishing-related topics, along with miscellaneous other narrative odds and ends thrown in the mix: fishing and firewood, fly-fishing versus bait fishing, fly-fishing’s countercultural history, salmon fishing, the experience of fishing with guides and even a random chapter on the perils of combining fishing with the pain-in-the-neck necessity of book tours. The author’s strength is his obvious obsessive drive to find the perfect fishing spot and make the perfect cast; his travels take him from his home state of Colorado to Canada, Wisconsin, Washington State and Mexico. While his fisherman’s jargon can get a bit too specialist-sounding for non-expert fisherman, Gierach’s good for plenty of man-of-the-soil maxims. On the subject of fishing on film: “Fishing is like sex in that it can be anywhere from deeply meaningful to just plain fun to participate in, but it’s oddly boring to watch in videos.” Though his thoughts occasionally veer off on unforeseeable tangent, even these detours often have a certain charm: One minute he’s talking about hooking wild trout in public water; the next, he’s on to some old-fashioned transcendentalist contemplation on the frivolity of material wealth.

Gierach’s genial campfire manner and woodsy witticisms should hook more than just the average fishing fanatic.