John Gierach

Out with the old, in with the new: 2011, the year in review

This will sound like an all-too-common cliché , but the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. It’s some sort of conspiracy–I’m convinced that someone has actually sped up time and/or shortened the calendar, because it seems nigh on impossible that 2011 is almost one for the archives. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains: another year has passed and another is about to begin. Because I’m a sunny optimist whose glass is always half full, I am all about looking ahead rather than dwelling in the past. That being said, let’s dwell for just a bit before we move on, shall we? Here are a few highlights (a term that is up for interpretation) from the UA in 2011.

January 

2011’s umbilical chord had barely been cut when it became clear that Charlie Sheen wouldn’t be the only one winning. Within a couple weeks of the New Year, I was declared the lucky winner in not one, but two contests. First, I won a box of Clif Bars and then a subscription to Flyfishing & Tying Journal. I shoulda quit while I was ahead, but I didn’t. On January 14th I posted what would prove to be my Magnum Opus as a blogger: Fly Fishing Needs Dirty Harry. That defining entry was the beginning of the end, and before the month was out I announced my retirement from the blog industry by declaring goodbye to the blogasphere. Because I no longer had a public fly fishing image to uphold, I promptly fled to Idaho for some steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River with a bunch of roe-fondling gear chuckers. It felt so dirty, and so right.

February

If January’s events were an indication, there should have been no February for the UA. But after some soul searching, I decided to unretire. During my three week hiatus from being an active-duty blogger, there was a lot of speculation about my whereabouts and I felt compelled to put to rest the rumors. Turns out I wasn’t quite ready for the AARP. But it was clear that nothing I ever posted again would take me close to the level of widespread acceptance that Dirty Harry afforded me. I just hoped that readers would accept me for who I was: a one-hit wonder, of sorts.

March

Befitting the month that is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, I came out with both barrels blazing. The website got a total makeover thanks to the amazing help of Rebecca Garlock of the Outdoor Blogger Network and Outdooress fame, and a new logo thanks to Itchy Dog Productions (which is rather self-indulgent). If I couldn’t offer consistently good content, at least I could package the Weekly Drivel® in such a way that it looked good. Perception is everything, right? Somehow during this month, a cardboard cutout of “me” sprang up and began to slowly circumnavigate the globe, or at least the country. At the end of the month, I took my son steelhead fishing for the first time. We paid a visit to the mecca of Vampires, Forks, WA. My intent was to show the lad how it’s done. He caught two fish, the last of which was landed under a double rainbow. I came home smelling of a skunk and my angling unaccomplishments had me feeling quite sheepish as March became a thing of the past.

April

I opted not to engage in April Fools Day trickery this year, for some reason. I’m not even sure why in retrospect–perhaps because it was to be expected of me?  The year prior I had crafted an April Vokey April Fools lark, but I wouldn’t stoop so low as to do that again. Perhaps I was attempting to become not so predictable. Or, I simply had nothing to offer. I’ll admit I was beat down by the weather, which continuted to be much colder and wetter than normal. A lack of Vitamin D brought and gas pains had me in a bit of a fishing funk. The only thing of note for April was that the schedule changed for the Weekly Drivel®: no longer would I be posting on Fridays, and instead moved the weekly deadline up to Wednesday. This may have been due to the fact that internet statistics show more people read blogs on Wednesday than on Friday, or it may have been due to the fact that I wanted to spend my Thursday nights watching quality TV with Mrs. UA instead of handcuffed to my keyboard, sweating a Friday deadline. Oh, April also marked the crowning of my good buddy Derek Young as the 2011 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year. It’s good to have friends like Derek (I’m quite certain he cannot say the same of me). I did not get out to fish this month, which normally would be a fine month to do so at least a couple of times. April showers proved to be incessant rains.

May

In a month that normally brings good fishing and Spring flowers, May was a lousy weather month across most of the West this past year. Thanks to La Niña (the Bitch), which had a stronghold on the climate for several months, Spring sucked eggs. Bug hatches and everything else were a month behind schedule, at least. I managed to get out and fish twice: once with Derek and Jason Small (a semi-pro photographer who intended to come along to shoot photos and ended up stealing all the fishing glory); the second time as part of the annual Children’s Hospital auction float trip. Actually, I wasn’t even fishing but rather was tasked with rowing a raft for the Reverend and The Father. But no matter how frustrouting May was, it was also the month that marks the annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone. I always look forward to that trip, no matter how much or how little it changes year to year, which it does.

June

Fed up with the crappy Western Washington Spring weather, I proposed a radical solution that never gained much traction: removing the Cascade Mountains. Unlike the removal of dams, breeching the mountains may have been an idea that was ahead of its time. I posted of our Yellowstone escapades, but as part of my ongoing campaign to be not so predictable, I did so out of sequence. I thought this cutting edge approach to journalism might increase my readership from 8 to 12. The jury is still out on whether or not that worked, but by month’s end the UA was up to 10 readers. And those 10 readers were treated to a review, sort of, of John Gierach’s newest book, No Shortage of Good Days.

July

Ah, summer finally arrives to the Pacific Northwest. At least in theory. The calendar may have indicated that it was the first month of summer, but there were obstacles that prevented it from fishing like a typical July. Eventually La Niña would loosen her grip, but July was still  month of developmentally-stunted weather. That didn’t seem to bother my son too much, as he became a professional bass angler. Olive the Woolly Bugger began her quest for Hollywood in earnest with a campaign to garner support from the internet. She could still use your help (hint-hint).

August

August was a big month for the UA as he ventured via Montana to Victor Idaho to participate in the Casting 4 A Cure event. I felt very fortunate to be able to participate, and hope to do so again. What I do not hope to do again is hit another deer while driving in Montana. The first leg of the journey took us to the Bitterroot River for a day of fishing with Jay Dixon. Having never before fished “the Root”, it was a real treat.  And I outfished Marck, which was also a first, but I would certainly never boast about it. Recommend you give Jay a shout if you plan to be over that way.

September

The UA celebrated it’s second birthday this month and predicted that readers should expect some irrational behavior fitting the terrible twos. If you were Owl Jones, you didn’t have to wait long for that unsavory behavior to come your way as I announced a Boycott of his website. Fortunately Mr. Jones caved into the pressure and the boycott was soon lifted and Owl resumed his quest for world domination. An epic Crane Fly hatch this month spawned a concept that I thought would be more popular than it turned out to be. Based on the luke warm reception, apparently the world wasn’t ready to combine their love of yard maintenance and fly fishing: Lawn Trout.

October

With a run of Pink Salmon numbering in the gazillions, I sought to harvest at least a few of these fish and made an attempt at doing so. The score after two attempts?  Pink Salmon: One Gazillion; UA: Zero. The erratic toddler-like behavior predicted a month earlier manifested itself once again as I declared war on Canada. A Cease-Fire was announced within a week. Having crashed and burned in my attempt to humor the world with my antics in September, I announced my idea for another radical idea that combined fishing and another popular American past time: BASSCAR. This proved marginally more popular, but I realized I would have to go back to the drawing board if I hoped to conceive of the next big thing…something that would attract Google’s attention. As it turns out, people seeking a fly fishing blog apparently want something actually having to do with fly fishing, as my review of the Sage One got more traffic than BASSPRO and Lawn Trout combined. Go figure.

November

The eleventh month of the year is not typically a very productive fishing month for me, and this November was no exception. However, my fishing unaccomplishments are rivaled only by my elk hunting unaccomplishments. Another thing you can do when you aren’t fishing and consequently have nothing to write about with regard to fishing, is conduct interrogations interviews with people who do fish. To that end I did my first interview with a fly fishing celebrity this month, as Olive the Woolly Bugger sat down for a chat. Interviews seem to be a popular fad in the fly fishing blogasphere, as I was grilled over at Eat More Brook Trout. Continuing with the whole interview theme, I gave Chris Hunt a dose of his own medicine in the form of 20 Questions. I began to realize that I really need to do more fishing.

December

I continued to acknowledge that I needed to do more fishing, but December isn’t the month to acknowledge this because fishing tends to be in limbo this month. I had several excuses for not fishing, however. Some of them were even valid reasons. I sat inside, attempting to fend off a case of the Shacknasties, and putting my creative brain to work. The jury is still out on whether my creativity will be rewarded, but pouring energy into a series of greeting cards is better than pouring alcohol into my system or writing about pink Fish Tacos.

As we say good riddance to 2011 and look ahead to 2012, I wish my 10 loyal followers a very Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support. With 8 more months of potential antics befitting a two year-old yet to come, I make no promises that you will read anything here worthy of your time. I do however, offer apologies in advance. I just hope we’re all still here this time next year.

No Shortage of Good Reviews

BREAKING NEWS– John Gierach’s latest book, No Shortage of Good Days, is available! At the time of this writing I received my copy, special ordered from Bobwhite Studios, about three week’s ago. It’s a signed edition, autographed by Gierach himself and personalized by cover artist Bob White, which makes me feel pretty cool (although I’m not).

I’m no literary critic. As a very well unknown author myself, I fear respect those who would write reviews – at least honest reviews. Unfavorable ones are the worst, or perhaps the best, because they’re honest. And there should be no other type of review, because if the review isn’t honest then it has no merit. Reviews are, however, simply opinions of the individual and should be taken with a grain of salt. And maybe a splash of tequila for good measure in case it’s of the unfavorable variety.

If you want a good review of No Shortage of Good Days, I suggest you look elsewhere. By that I don’t mean go looking for a favorable review elsewhere, just a review written by someone who writes good. Here are a few blog reviews worth your time to visit:

The Trout Underground. Make sure you’re not in a hurry, and have a full mug of piping hot coffee at hand before you commit to Tom Chandler’s epic novel review. It’s comprehensive. Well-written. It’s long. I think when Tom wrote this he was in dire need of a fishing vacation. The suspense builds over the course 3 days as Chandler teases us – offering brief glimpses into what is to follow – 5 times before actually delivering the full meal deal. Good God man! Honestly, given the attention given to the book, it’s as if Chandler worships the paper Gierach writes on, in much the way that we hack bloggers idolize The Trout Underground. He’s clever. His review is worth the commitment required.

Up The Poudre. I don’t want to publicize the name of the blogger responsible for this review for fear of blowing his cover. You see, he has wisely exiled himself to the remote hills in Colorado. If you know where the Unabomber hid out, you know where I’m talking about. He (not the Unabomber) is in hiding: posting blog updates via a satellite up-link. Eventually Google Earth’s cameras will find him, if Gierach’s henchmen don’t first. Godspeed, Sanders man. It’s an honest review, if even for having only covered 2 chapters. It brings up some interesting things to ponder about blogs perhaps taking the place of books for some people.

Casting Around. I’ll admit that when I stumbled upon this review, it was the first I’d heard of this blog. I’ve no doubt there are countless other good blogs out there that I’ve never seen nor ever will. There are just so very many blogs, and so very little time. Blog keeper Anthony Naples scribes a good review here, and by that I don’t mean it’s favorable (though it is), but is well thought out and well written.

If I were to take a stab at reviewing No Shortage of Good Days I would have to say that there’s very little that I can find to be disappointed with, and quite a great deal that I enjoyed. However, I do have a couple issues that have nothing to do with whether or not Gierach’s latest book is being redundant and giving us more of the “same old same old” as he continues to weave insight into his entertaining angle on fly fishing…No, what I have a beef with are a couple of glaring inaccuracies. First, in Chapter 2, page 14, Gierach writes:

Vince and I rented a car at the Seattle airport, drove north along the coast, and got a room at a motel in a small town not far from the river. This was a typically characterless American burg beside an interstate comprised of cookie-cutter housing developments, strip malls and burger joints: everything quick, cheap, and temporary in the interest of hyperconsumerism.

He had me until “drove north along the coast.” Allow me to veer a bit off course for a moment as I explain.

People in “Eastern Washington” which is anywhere east of the Cascade Crest according to many wet-siders, are prone to referring to those of us in the greater Seattle/Puget Sound area as being from “the coast”. People from Spokane are particularly fond of this inaccurate term of endearment. Well, I’m here to tell you that while the salt water in Puget Sound may well be the same salt water that can be found in the Pacific Ocean (connected by the Strait of Juan de Fuca), Puget Sound is not the coast. In fact I fished within 10 miles of the coast this past Spring, on the Hoh River out near Forks. It was a 4 hour trip from where I live, which is near Seattle (you know, on “the coast”).

But back to Gierach’s book. In Chapter 2, aptly titled “SKAGIT”, Gierach is bound for the river by the same name to chase the elusive wild steelhead with Dave McCoy of Emerald Water Anglers and Dylan Rose of Skate the Fly. The Skagit River empties into Puget Sound not too far the town of Mount Vernon, Washington, which should not to be confused with George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virgina (by the way, there is a street by the name of Virginia in the town of Mount Vernon, Washington). The Skagit is not a coastal river. The body of water that Gierach would have glimpsed as he drove north along I-5 was Puget Sound, not the Pacific Ocean. In his defense, it’s a confusing region because Vancouver is located  164 miles to the south and also 141 miles to the north of Seattle (click on map for clarification).

One other inaccuracy that I had a hard time letting go of occurs on page 56 of Chapter 6: BAJA. Gierach talks of the hazards of standing barefoot in the surf while casting to roosterfish.

“…and the water can be filled with chunks of dead jellyfish that have been churned into pieces by the waves. They sting your feet and bare legs painfully, but they’re harmless unless you get a big piece. You learn not to complain because the only known remedy is urine—your own or someone else’s.”

False! I questioned this jellyfish-sting remedy years ago after watching a television sitcom (I think it was “Friends”) where one character was stung by jellyfish and another character peed on them. This organic first aid treatment is nothing but an old wive’s tale, according to an ABC News Health article. Perpetuating such a myth is irresponsible journalism because it may result in scores of people needlessly urinating on each other at the beach. It does, however, make for more entertaining prose than if Gierach were to have said, “It’s a sound idea to always carry with you a bottle of vinegar to treat a jellyfish sting.”

Having said all that, no doubt Gierach’s covert band of revenging henchmen will soon be seeking me out to issue forth a bit of discipline, thus, I’ll be entering the Witness Protection Program. I hope that they put me somewhere near the coast. Forks would be nice. There’s good steelhead fishing out there, and not many stinging jellyfish to be worried about. Maybe if Gierach had gone to Forks in chapter 2, he might’ve caught a fish.

As for the rest of the book? I liked it. I’ve read a few of his other books and liked them as well. Gierach’s writing style suggests that he’s a regular dude—a regular dude who just so happens to be a legend in the eyes of fly fishing readers worldwide. He doesn’t try to impress or intimidate by casually throwing around big words (I only had to look up one word in chapter 6: abrade). The format of his books works well for me as they are a compilation of short stories broken into chapters. The older I get the more my attention span seems to shrink (along with loss of muscle mass), so novels and such, which require great commitments of time and feats of strength, are something I find myself reading less and less often. With Gierach’s writing I can easily knock out a chapter during a brief respite in my day (I was going to suggest that these quick pit stops usually follow my first cup of morning coffee, but that was already alluded to on page 76 of chapter 8: BOOK TOUR).

Will you like No Shortage of Good Days by John Gierach? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly what I’ve said here will not impact your opinion in the way that a good review might.

"Close to Home" by Bob White

 

By the way, the cover illustration for No Shortage of Good Days is worth the price alone, which happens to be $24. The illustration by Bob White is titled, “Close to Home” and was originally created to illustrate Gierach’s 100th column in Fly Rod & Reel magazine. It is available in 3 print sizes, signed by both the subject and the artist, via Bobwhitestudios.com.