In Still Life with Brook Trout, John Gierach demonstrates once again that fishing, when done right, is as much a philosophical pursuit as a sport.
Gierach travels to Wyoming and Maine and points in between, searching out new fly-fishing adventures and savoring familiar waters with old friends. Along the way he meditates on the importance of good guides ("Really, the only thing a psychiatrist can do that a good guide can't is write prescriptions"), the challenge of salmon fishing ("Salmon prowl. If they're not here now, they could be here in half an hour. Or tomorrow. Or next month"), and the zen of fishing alone ("I also enjoy where my mind goes when I'm fishing alone, which is usually nowhere in particular and by a predictable route"). On a more serious note, he ponders the damaging effects of disasters both natural and man-made: drought, wildfires, and the politics of dam-building, among others.
Reflecting on a trip to a small creek near his home, Gierach writes, "In my brightest moments, I think slowing down...has opened huge new vistas on my old home water. It's like a friendship that not only lasts, but gets better against the odds." Similarly, Still Life with Brook Trout proves that Gierach, like fly-fishing itself, becomes deeper and richer with time.
Over the course of 14 books, John Gierach has become the fishing buddy to countless anglers he's never met. Waterlogged and dog-eared and thrown in the back of pickup trucks, Gierach's classics Trout Bum and The View from Rat Lake gave voice to the inner wanderings and wonderings of fly fishers the world over. In Still Life with Brook Trout Gierach continues his enviable jaunts--he seems constantly to be traipsing off to some undiscovered creek, private water, or middle-of-nowhere secret spot--but this time, there's a difference. More than ever, Gierach is forced to deal with an aging body that can't quite scramble over logjams, bushwhack through the brush, or wade quite as deeply as before. Running parallel with these observations, Gierach ponders the effects of a three-year drought in the mountain West. But whether it is his aching knees or dropping levels in reservoirs, rivers, and streams, Gierach always retains hope without dismissing the often grim odds, ridiculous situations, and glum prospects so familiar to anglers. And while Gierach nurses his hope like an ember, he never abandons his appreciation for the sport's absurdity, humor, and humbling moments. He has become the master of the literary shrug, as if to say, "What can you do? Might as well go fishing." Like the best of Gierach's work, Still Life with Brook Trout mirrors the exquisitely languid pace of the sport. He meanders, explores side roads and bends in the river, and never fails to take note of "a deer crossing a meadow or a circling hawk ... even if it means missing a strike when it finally comes." Gierach is on his game here, and longtime fans will rise to this offering hook, line, and sinker. --Steve Duda