Shin Deep by Chris Hunt

Book Review–Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher’s Love for Living Water

Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher’s Love for Living Water by Chris Hunt

I received a copy of Chris Hunt’s book for Christmas, which wasn’t entirely a surprise given that I sent the specific link to my kids with very clear instructions that if they wished to appease their father, they would see to it that this book ended up under the tree. My kids rarely listen to me, but this time they did and for that I am grateful. FYI, here is the link I sent them which produced results: Get the Book.

Before we dive into all that I liked about Shin Deep, I feel I should divulge a little background about me, as a reader of books. I’ve always enjoyed a good book, and I really enjoy a good book when it has something to do with fly fishing. And it used to be that I was a rather compulsive reader. By that I mean that reading would throw my life out of balance: when I started a good book, most everything else in life would be neglected until I’d finished the last word (that neglect included things such as personal hygeine and basic nutrition). However, time changes a person and I have discovered that in recent years I’ve mellowed a bit when it comes to my voraciousness as a reader of books. Actually, I find that I’ve become more easily distracted by myriad other things in life, and thus am not good at taking time to sit down and finish books that I’ve started. As an example, I have 5 4 fishing-related books in a stack that I have every intention of finishing, some day. And I will get to them, eventually. Hey look–a squirrel!

"Who, me? I'd like to speak to an attorney."

Such was not the case with Shin Deep. While I did not compulsively tear through the book in one sitting, I did set aside time to read at least a couple of chapters each night and I got through the book in short order. My dog, Eddie, also gave his early approval of Shin Deep. I fact, he literally drooled over it. You see, Eddie has a certain affinity for eating kleenex and toilet paper. He must like the soft texture, or the fact that when he passes it there’s no need to wipe.  At any rate, I had just recently begun wading into Shin Deep and was using a square of TP as a book mark (what–doesn’t everyone?). One evening while Mrs. UA and I were out to dinner, Eddie decided that my bookmark would make for a nice snack. Upon returning home that evening, Shin Deep lay on the floor next to the coffee table. The cover appeared to be slightly water-damaged (from canine saliva) and the edges of the pages bore the gentle teeth marks of a particular chocolate Lab. To his credit, Eddie is very soft-mouthed and was therefore remarkably gentle as he extracted the bookmark. Luckily I had dog-eared the page where I’d left off in my last session and was able to easily resume reading.

The author takes us on an intimate journey to a wide variety of destinations that span Connecticut to Montana; from West Virginia’s Potomac River to Henry’s Fork in Idaho, Hunt writes in an easy manner that makes one feel as though they’re sitting down over a frosty beverage around a campfire, listening to him tell stories. Each chapter is a personal reflection of a particular outing delivered without a hint of bravado. Hunt is not attempting to impress with awe-inspiring tales of catching trophy-sized fish in far off and exotic locales, but rather he shares his thoughts and appreciations for all that makes fly fishing so enjoyable, in places the average angler can imagine themselves fishing. From catching 7-inch brook trout in Appalachia to admittedly posting up on a pod of rising whitefish during a snow storm on the Snake River, Hunt reveals something about himself: he’s just an average Joe. In Hunt’s defense with regard to the whitefish, he proclaims, “some of them were respectable fish.”

I was particularly able to identify with Chapter 6: Prince of Wales, in which the author confesses to doing something I’ve never done we all have nightmares about. While on a trip to Whale Pass in Alaska (which is apparently a long way from any fly shop) Hunt leaves his fly box behind and must go on a quest for replacements. His recount of having to scrounge for the only available flies in town is worth the price of admission ($14.95, with a 20% off code if you hurry); the sense of desperation to find any fishing flies emanates vividly from the pages and I felt as though I were right there with him (laughing). After snapping-off every fly he was able to scrounge up, Hunt ends up fishing a rusty orange Rapala lure that he finds only after nearly sitting on it. Good stuff.

What becomes apparent in the book is that Hunt absolutely loves fish and fly fishing. At the beginning of Chapter 3 the author recalls an exchange between he and his wife as he is preparing to leave on a trip in the nation’s capitol. While the trip for was business purposes, Hunt was keenly aware that he would be only 90 minutes from Shenandoah National Park and it’s native brook trout waters:

“You’re traveling to the cradle of the Republic, and you’re going fishing?” my wife asked, as I tucked a four-piece three-weight into my suitcase. “You’re pathetic.”

Amen to that.

In addition to being an author, Chris Hunt is an award-winning journalist and keeper of the Eat More Brook Trout blog. When he’s not doing all of this, or fishing, Hunt is the National Communications Director for Trout Unlimited.

20 Questions: Chris Hunt, Eat More Brook Trout

Chris Hunt prepares to eat a Brookie

Paying homage to the man who originated the “20 Questions”series, we are gathered here today to boost the Google Analytics of the Unaccomplished Angler learn a bit more about Chris Hunt: the man, the myth, and the proprietor of the Eat More Brook Trout blog. In his spare time Chris also just happens to be the National Communications Director for Trout Unlimited. The biggest difference between what Chris does with his “20 Questions” series on his site and what you’ll see here today, is that Chris only publishes 20 of the questions he sends out to those he deems worthy can bribe to participate in his interview series. Conversely, I’m dishing all 30 questions. This may result in me falling out of favor with Chris, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take to bring you the Full Meal Deal. Enjoy.

Chris Hunt is a former newspaper journalist who escaped the trade just before it imploded. He went to work saving the world, one trout at a time, for a well-known conservation organization (whose letters are TU–ed.). He does some freelance writing on the side, has penned a couple of books and lives in Idaho Falls with his wife, two kids and two unruly mutts.

Chris’ passion is fly fishing and he’s very evangelical about the need to protect wild country in order to protect sporting opportunity. He’s had the good fortune to fish all over North America from Alaska and Canada, to the tip of Baja and nearly everywhere in between. The mountains and the trout they shelter are his first love, but if a year passes without being able to dip his toes in the ocean, withdrawals set in.

His claims to fly fishing fame? He caught a northern pike on a Tenkara rod; he caught a migrating lake trout on a Tenkara rod. And he caught a muskie on his third cast (and has a witness!). Over the years, his writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and websites, including the New York Times and Field & Stream. He blogs somewhat regularly at eatmorebrooktrout.com.

Without further ado, let’s throw Chris Hunt to the lions:

 1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My head in the Rockies, my feet in the salt and a feeding fish within casting range.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Oddly enough, drowning. I became an excellent swimmer to ward this one off.

Mark Twain was a Tenkara man.

3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Mark Twain. Honest. Concise. And just a little bit full of himself.

4. Which living person do you most admire?
Cecil Andrus. Idaho’s favorite son, and a guy who’ll tell you like it is, even if you don’t want to hear it.

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I’m a closet narcissist, if such a thing exists.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hypocrisy, and the willingness to use it for political gain.

7. What is your favorite journey?
This is a tough one for me, because, at the time, it was easily our most difficult journey. We once drove from Eureka, Calif., to Colorado and back to see family for the Holidays. Our Land Cruiser died. Our 3-month-old daughter did nothing but scream during a treacherous blizzard in northeast Utah. I became the owner of a mini-van. We got into a real trailer-park bust-up at a Motel 6 in Wendover, Nev., (dogs included). And I think I grew up. Finally. I look back on that journey all those years ago now and think, “If we can do that, we can do anything.”

Lake Trout caught without a reel.

8. On what occasion do you lie?
I did not fart.  And I did not play Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid.

9. Which living person do you most despise?
If I told you, the Wiccan curse I paid good money to have put on that rat bastard won’t work.

10. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
There are two. The first is, “What up, yo?” My son came home from school one day and laid this one on us. I’ve used it ever since. The other is “What are you wearing?” I usually save that one for answering the phone.

11. What is your greatest regret?
Quitting football after the ninth grade. I think I’d have made a hell of tight end in the NFL … but, on the flip side, I can walk, have both my original knees and I’ve learned to double haul. Life’s good… regrets probably come with baggage.

12. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The cliché thing here is to say my family. Clichés are clichés for a reason. My family. The country-fried steak and eggs Trucker’s Breakfast at the Ranch Hand in Montpelier, Idaho, is a close second, though.

13. Which talent would you most like to have?
It’s funny… I’ve been asking these questions to other folks now for months, and I’ve never really thought about this one. I’d love to be able to fly, but I’d feel compelled to wear a cape and save kittens from trees. And I’m a dog person. This will surprise some folks, but I’d love to be able to carry a tune. I just can’t, and I think it’s very limiting.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ve been lucky professionally. As a journalist, I won lots of awards for my work, and I always took great pride in that. But I think what I’m most proud of was having the late, great Charlie Meyers, the best outdoor writer ever to grace the pages of a newspaper, review my book and praise it. Charlie was a great man of many talents and he lived a life of adventure. For him to take the time to read my book and then tell others how much he liked it meant the world to me.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Again… I’ve never given this much thought. When I was a kid, I was enamored by dolphins. In my 20s, I wanted to be Bourbon Street strip club owner (don’t judge… I like boobies*). Now, at 42, I think I’d like to be a vagabond fly fisher wandering the beaches and flats of the Yucatan.*No judgement here, just agreement–ed.

16. What is your most treasured possession?
My grandfather’s bamboo fly rod. My uncle gave it to me a year or so after my grandfather died. One of these days, I’ll have it restored. For now, though, it’s comforting to look at the old aluminum tube in the corner of the fly tying room and remember the feeling of the old man standing over my shoulder while I cast to rising brook trout.

17. Where would you like to live?
Craig, Alaska, from July through September. Then … maybe South Padre until, say, January. Then New Orleans through May. I’d spend June in Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan. But here, just a stone’s throw from the Yellowstone Caldera, isn’t too shabby.

18. Who are your favorite writers?
Robert Jordan, Mark Twain, Aldo Leopold. Jim Babb (if you’ve never read River Music, you’re missing the best fly fishing ever written), Tom McGuane. I used to put Geirach on the list, and probably still should for old time’s sake. I just think … I’ve outgrown the introspective fly fishing essay (and, in case you haven’t, get your copy of the ultimate collection of introspective fly fishing essays here!).

19. Who are your heroes?
My grandfather, Bill Muller, who slogged through hell during World War II in the Pacific. Theodore Roosevelt, for recognizing the need to keep our country’s natural resources intact. And Howard Zahniser, the author of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Each of these men saved the world, as I know it.

20. How would you like to die?
Jeez, you’re damn nosey, aren’t you Kirk? I mean, these questions are really personal. Let’s see… again, very little thought to this one. I’d love to die on the river, but then I would probably drown, and I don’t want to drown. I do hope the good Lord takes me quickly and after a great day of fishing. And maybe he’ll come collect me from an Irish pub after one last taste of Jameson.

Hey, so the man likes Lady Ga Ga. Don't judge.

21. What’s on your iPod?
Sadly, I don’t really have one. I’m a satellite radio guy. But… if I did load an iPod full of tunes, it would include a lot of Jimmy Buffett, a little Lyle Lovett, country when country was a lot more raw (I mean, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven?” “Christmas Shoes?” Where have all the real country singers gone? This blatant pandering to the blubbering masses makes me want to puke). I guess I’d have some Toby Keith on there—or at least his song, “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willy Again.” I’m diggin’ Mumford and Sons. The Clumsy Lovers make the cut for sure. And Lady GaGa. Seriously.

22. What’s the title of your autobiography?
Oh, that’s easy. “20 Questions.”

23. If you were a pet dog, what would your name be?
Bronco.

A math under-achiever.

24. If there’s a Heaven, and you’re lucky enough to make the cut, what would you like to hear God say to you upon arrival?
“Look at you. You’re proof that you can live a long and happy life with just a C-minus in college algebra.”

25. What was the most significant moment in your life?
There are two. The first was when my daughter was yanked from the guts of my wife during an emergency C-section. Nothing prepares you for the love you feel for this tiny person you’ve only just met. The second was when my son emerged in roughly the same fashion. He pissed on the doctor and the nurses and he’s been making people laugh ever since.

26. What’s your favorite film?
Silverado. Best. Movie. Ever.

27. Where would you want your loved ones to spread your ashes?
I’m sending those greedy little shits on a wild goose chase. They can leave a bit on the banks of the Crystal River above the town of Marble, Colo.; they can sprinkle a bit in the South Fork and the Henry’s Fork. A handful will have to go along the banks of a little creek on Prince of Wales Island, whose name I will reveal in my will, and not a second sooner. Some will go to the grayling in the Grease River before it enters Lake Athabasca. A little bit will have to go to the upper Gibbon River. And the last of it can go in the garden under the cilantro and the garlic chives.

Chicks dig the 1980 Corolla.

28. What’s your favorite car of all the cars you’ve owned?
We had a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser that got to know the central Colorado mining roads pretty well. And I’ve loved my Dodge Dakotas over the last 10 years or so. But I’ll have to go with a 1980 Toyota Corolla. Craven yellow. Mabye two oil changes in five years. It bore a dent from my then-girlfriend’s step-father who backed into it with his truck one morning, not realizing that I was, ahem, sleeping over. It took me all over the country and I loved it to death.

29. What word do you have to look up in order to know you spelled it correctly?
Knowlege. Or is it knowledge? Oye.

30. Who’s your favorite cartoon character?
Jessica Rabbit. Hubba hubba.

Jessica Rabbit, eh? Whatever you say, Chris...