Q&A with fishing writer John Gierach, the streamside philospher

by Ed Godfrey Published: May 10, 2014
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John Gierach has been called America’s best fishing writer. The Lyons, Colo., resident’s 17th book, “All Fisherman Are Liars,” is now in stores.

Q: Why is fly fishing more romanticized by writers than any of the other outdoor pursuits?

A: “I'm not sure fly-fishing is romanticized more than other outdoor pursuits — if you get anyone from a hunter to a skier to a birdwatcher going they can lay it on pretty thick — but it's been written about more. In his 1974 book “The Fishing in Print,” Arnold Gingrich said that in the last 500 years more books have been written about fishing than about any other sport. The vaguely poetic, pastoral tone of fishing literature was established by Izaak Walton, and most of the sport's clichés can be traced back to his book “The Complete Angler,” published in 1653 and continuously in print since then. You could say the romantic stance is a matter of tradition and not be far wrong.

When you are fishing, are you constantly thinking about what you are going to write about that trip, or does that come later?

A: I actually try not to think about writing while I'm fishing, and sometimes I succeed. On the other hand, I do take basic notes of the who, what, where, when and why variety, and I write down quotes I might use later so I can get them right without having to trust my memory. That said, I'm better off if I go fishing for the same reason everyone else does — that is, out of simple curiosity — and see if a story suggests itself later. The essays I write tend to be about something other than the fishing, but that wouldn't have come up without the fishing, and I have the advantage that a trip that goes horribly wrong in terms of fishing can still make a good story. Of course not every fishing trip generates a story, but all that means is that I have to go fishing again right away. After all, it's my job.

What do you love most about fly fishing?

A: What I love most about fly-fishing is solitude. That's why I've always had a soft spot for small, obscure streams and remote rivers. Of course I do fish more popular and crowded spots pretty regularly, but I try to go at odd times of year or during high flows and at least avoid weekends, when there are more people fishing. I also use some of the more obvious tricks of, for instance, fishing riffles when everyone else is fishing the pools or fishing far downstream on a tailwater when all the pressure is concentrated upstream near the dam.


by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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