By Sam Larson
I have a sizable collection of fly fishing books. Sometimes I’ll review one. I’ll keep it under 500 words. Any longer and you should just go read the book. Expect slander, personal opinion, and unbridled honesty. I like both books and fly fishing too much to be nice.
I think this is my favorite John Gierach book. He’s spent his career describing trips, stories, or friends ad most people know him from books like Even Brook Trout Get the Blues or Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders. Those are great things that he does, and I’ve enjoyed every Gierach book I’ve read. But I like him the most in Good Flies when the authorial pretense drops and he’s just an angler talking about fly patterns that he likes.
Flies are the point of contact for me. From the rod and through the line, fish and I meet at the fly. Certain flies, and Gierach knows this, are more than feathers, fur, and hooks. Fish a fly often enough, and hard enough, and they become focal points, loci of memory and story. It’s hard to fish an Adams without thinking of the first trout I caught on a fly rod. Caddis flies, yellow with deer hair wings, make me think of Clear Creek. Copper Johns remind me of the autumn when I finally learned how to nymph. Gierach’s remembrances of his favorite flies are just that. Along with a recipe and some tying tips he relates the paths they took into his life, why he likes them (and sometimes it’s just because they’re pretty), and what a fly can mean when it means more than a chance to hook a fish.
John Gierach is everyone’s favorite curmudgeon, and I’ll admit that every time I fish the Vrain I keep an eye out for a bearded gentleman carrying a cane rod. Good Flies captures what I would want from meeting him. Not a wise elder angler to teach me the ways, not a story from a man who’s been around, but a rambling conversation about flies, what we liked, how we tied them, how we made them our own, and what they mean to us.