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Standing in a River Waving a Stick
by John Gierach
ISBN 0684824256 / 9780684824253 / 0-684-82425-6
Publisher Simon & Schuster
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John Gierach, America's favorite trout bum and author of such wise and humorous collections as Dances with Trout and Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing, sets this volume in motion by testing the waters of the philosophical stream: "Lately," he ponders, "I've been thinking about what makes a good fly-fisher, possibly the last fair question of the twentieth century that might actually have an answer." In searching for that answer, he naturally begins to spin his reels, firm in the belief that the solution to any question or problem is to go fishing, "and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be."
Of course, Gierach's life is one extended fishing trip, so he sets out for pools and streams from Montana and Michigan to British Columbia and his own Colorado, musing along the way on subsets of that last fair question like technique versus inner grace, the number of fish you actually catch, the stories you come home with, and the company you choose to cast your lot--and flies--with. As expected with Gierach, the essays of this spirited array are less answers in themselves than provocatively enjoyable journeys through a richly literate and detailed landscape of interesting bugs (the chapter called "Boatmen"), obsessions ("Getting Stuck"), local streams ("Taking It Personally"), and even a memorial service held off until the fish were biting ("Jordan River"). In the end, Gierach is left where he began, "certain that on the day I become a truly sublime fly-fisher, all my failings will be overshadowed and all my demons will swim under rocks and stay there until I go away." Until that day comes, he'll just have to take solace from the way he continues to hook us pleasurably on the natural resources of his own prose. --Jeff Silverman [via]