“All Fishermen Are Liars” by John Gierach (Simon & Schuster, 211 pages, in stores)
If you want to learn how to fly fish, reading a book by John Gierach is not what you are looking for. If you want to fall in love with fly fishing, then Gierach is your man.
Writing in his usual homespun style, Gierach’s new book, “All Fishermen Are Liars,” is his 17th since 1984 and another worthy collection for anyone’s bookcase, especially someone who fancies himself a fly fisherman.
Gierach writes with such intimacy about the sport — or lifestyle I should say — that even if your life is not consumed by fishing, you find yourself entranced by his words.
“I can’t help but think of trout streams as feminine, but that’s not some kind of left-handed gender politics,” Gierach writes in one of the book’s essays, titled “New Water.”
“It’s just that this kind of graceful and surprising sweetness calls to mind many of the women I know, but none of the men. Of course, strictly speaking, a trout stream is an inanimate object, but no fisherman really believes that.”
“All Fishermen Are Liars” contains 22 essays from some of Gierach’s fishing adventures across North America. He takes you along on his journeys to busy streams and secluded lakes in snow-capped mountains in pursuit of his quarry, whether it is steelheads, salmon or smallies.
The streamside philosopher also has an ear for anecdote and often finds musings in the characters he meets and the places he eats on his travels.
From the book’s essay, “The Nuclear Option,” on his quest to find the perfect steelhead fly:
“I once asked a steelheader in Oregon. ‘If your comeback fly is so effective, why not fish it all the time?’” Gierach writes. “He explained that the bigger, flashier fly would attract the attention of more fish and even hook some of them, while the comeback fly was reserved for the tough customers. ‘It’s the steak and potatoes that gets him in the door,’ he said. ‘but it’s that little piece of cheesecake that closes the deal.’”
And there is this from the essay “Smallies” about his fishing trip to Wisconsin for smallmouth bass.
“I stopped for lunch at a roadhouse straight out of my idyllic youth, with deer and fish mounts on the walls and Formica booths with cracked plastic seats patched with duct tape,” Gierach writes. “I ordered the regulation hot pork sandwich on white bread with a pound of mashed potatoes on the side (no vegetables), the whole thing slathered with industrial-strength gravy.
“The waitress who delivered this feast was a cheerful three-hundred-pounder, in case there was any doubt about the dangers inherent in a steady diet of midwestern comfort food.”
If you can’t be standing knee-deep in a beautiful mountain stream with a fly rod in your hand, then reading a book by Gierach is the next best thing.
I can’t help but think of trout streams as feminine, but that’s not some kind of left-handed gender politics.It’s just that this kind of graceful and surprising sweetness calls to mind many of the women I know, but none of the men. Of course, strictly speaking, a trout stream is an inanimate object, but no fisherman really believes that.”