John Gierach

Some Quotes From My Favorite Fly Fishing Authors

Fall is my favorite time to fly fish. The creeks and rivers are down and the fish start rising to load up their bellies to help them weather winter. It’s been a very wet summer here in the Black Hills so it may be a different Fall but, at some point, it will be good. It always is. 

 As it gets cooler, fly fishermen start to wax philosophical. This is where the fish caught earlier in the year start to grow larger and the promise of the fish to be caught in the next year starts to germinate. Many fly fishermen feel compelled to write about it. Some of them, like John Gierach, Ted Leeson and a few others are quite good.

 Here are some samples from a few of my favorites.

 Fishing in general has always seemed to me a form of subversion anyway.  In a world that insists upon “means” and “ends,” that dooms every path to a destination, fishing elides the categories and so slips the distinction altogether.  You become engaged in the nonterminal, participial indefiniteness of “going fishing.” It exists wholly for its own sake, productive (at least in the late-twentieth-century sense of the term) of absolutely nothing. Measured against the ledger-sheet sensibility; corporate or Calvinist, it is a form of anarchy, and that legions of bottom-liners haven’t yet sniffed it out as something dangerous baffles me a little. To go fishing is essentially functionless, though that’s not at all the same thing as saying it is without purpose.

                                                     Ted Leeson, The Habit of Rivers

 I enjoy fishing too much to risk my life at it. Death can really cut into your fishing time.

                                                      John Gierach, Trout Bum

 A road trip…gets all the cards on the table…The usual hardships of getting out early, getting in late, getting lost, getting rained on, getting skunked, and all the other things you can get tend to reveal character in a matter of days. Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip. 

                                                       John Gierach, The View from Rat Lake

 Fishing is a chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on the blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the scenery of nature, charity toward tackle makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of man—for all men are equal before fish. 

                                                       Herbert Hoover, Fishing for Fun and to Wash Your Soul

 The purist fishes exclusively with a fly rod, which means that he owns a spinning rod and sometimes uses it, but he doesn’t talk about it much…and stores it separately from his fly tackle.

 Chances are it’s a very good rod.

 The snob is exactly like the purist except he doesn’t own a spinning rod. He used to, but he gave it away years ago, not wanting to have the filthy thing around the house. Furthermore, anyone who does fish with a spinning rod is sleazy and cheap and his parents were probably not married. This guy is not nice, or very happy either, and the time will surely come when he gets pretty lonely too. Snobbery occurs as the result of a logical fallacy. We all want to experience and appreciate something of excellent quality, but it doesn’t follow that we’re every bit as good as what we do. 

                                                       John Gierach, The View from Rat Lake

 You get over these small losses the way a lizard grows a new tail, and you end up remembering the great uncaught fish as vividly as you do the caught ones—and just as fondly too, because there’s a part of every fisherman that roots for the fish. 

                                                       John Gierach, Even Brook Trout Get the Blues

 If you’re weary, sick but still ambulatory, fed up, overworked, angry, frustrated, heartbroken, need to think things over or need to stop thinking things over for a while, you should definitely go fishing, and you should go alone so you don’t bother anyone. But then fishing, like most other simple human pleasures, is better when it’s done out of love than when it’s used as a painkiller. 

                                                       John Gierach, Another Lousy Day in Paradise

 A fish like this doesn’t count. I meant to catch it, but didn’t catch it the way I meant to—a distinction that nonanglers often find idiotic…Luck and happenstance are always part of fishing, though for the most part, I think, in small and subtle ways that an angler never notices. But the aim of fishing is to fish well, and the aim of fishing well is to make chance count for as little as possible. Much of the pleasure comes from knowing, or at least preserving the illusion, that we are agents of our own success, that we have orchestrated the whole affair ourselves, that a trout is not hooked through some quirky turn of events, but that it willingly and predictably responds to our own ideas about how it ought to behave. The accidental trout fails to satisfy because it is an unrepeatable phenomenon; it means nothing but that accidents happen…It has, at best, a sort of fluky entertainment value, like a tee shot that caroms off the clubhouse for a hole in one. 

                                                       Ted Leeson, Jerusalem Creek

 For one thing, like many fly fishermen, I enjoy watching another angler fish nearly as much as I enjoy fishing myself, and on some occasions even more…Watching somebody fish is a good deal more like watching baseball, a slow-paced game with studied aspects, than it is like watching, say, a stock-car race, where spectators may gather in the simple hearted hope of witnessing catastrophe. To split a rod with someone is a leisurely thing, and if that someone is any good, watching him lay out a cast and drop the fly and work the water feels very much like fishing, even though you’re not holding the rod. The stakes are low because you are there in part for companionship, and if you choose your partner wisely, the company is always good no matter what the fishing is like. 

                                                       Ted Leeson, Jerusalem Creek

 That Presidents have taken to fishing in an astonishing fashion seems to me worthy of investigation. I think I have discovered the reason: it is a silent sport. One of the few opportunities given to a President for the refreshment of his soul and the clarification of his thoughts by solitude lies through fishing…Next to prayer, fishing is the most personal relationship of man; and of more importance, everyone concedes that the fish will not bite in the presence of the public, including newspapermen. Fishing seems to be one of the few avenues left to Presidents through which they may escape to their own thoughts, may live in their own imaginings, find relief from the pneumatic hammer of constant personal contacts, and refreshment of mind in rippling waters. Moreover, it is a constant reminder of the democracy of life, of humility and of human frailty. It is desirable that the President of the United States should be periodically reminded of this fundamental fact—that the forces of nature discriminate for no man.  

                                                       Herbert Hoover, Fishing for Fun and to Wash Your Soul

 I agree with a friend of mine who says that if fishing is really like sex, then he’s doing one of them wrong. 

                                                       John Gierach, Dances with Trout

It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us…

Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.


Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

 
I am haunted by waters. 

                                                       Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It