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March 20, 2011 / flogginwater

What to do when you can’t fish? Read a book!

You know that itch. The one you can’t seem to ever scratch away. The one that bugs you and bugs you and bugs you – until you dig at it until you bleed? Fishing, for me, is just such an itch. If I could get paid to fish – and I mean to FISH – not to guide people – I’d jump at it. I’m one of the types that doesn’t care if I’m fishing an urban pond surrounded by houses, warehouses, or shopping centers. I can fish a neighborhood pond or creek just as easily as I can a scenic mountain lake or stream. I’ll fish for anything from tiny panfish to the mighty pacific salmon – and on one memorable trip as a youngster – a quest to conquer Alaskan halibut with my dad.

Fishing is in my blood – it’s one of the things I’ve been most passionate about my entire life – since I was big enough to hold my own rod. As a 4 and 5 year old child, I spent hours – entire afternoons – with that old Zebco 404 in the back yard – and from thirty feet, I could hit the blossom of my mom’s roses and tulips – which never went over terribly well. But boy could I cast that rod – and catch fish with it when we actually went fishing. Many a days I was the lucky one in the boat – and caught the biggest fish, or the most fish, or sometimes – the only fish.

Growing up, that itch to fish just got worse. I’ve expanded my fishing seasons as I got older – as a child I relied mainly on my dad and mom to take me fishing. They prefered to fish for stocked rainbow trout at Henry Hagg Lake most of the time – if Dad went – we took the boat. If it was just mom & me, we banked it. Season back then was the last Saturday in April, through Halloween. THat was fishing season.

Then I learned of salmon and steelhead – and when I became old enough to drive – I would occasionally venture out to find those fish.

Now, staring down my 30th birthday – and living in Oregon – we have an endless fishing season – if you’re willing to change things up every so often. Most lakes in Oregon are open year round. Henry Hagg is not – but they did push the opener up to the first Saturday in March – making the season *almost* two months longer. Creeks, on the other hand, have a shorter season now than they did when I was a boy. They used to open in April, along with the lake. Now, most streams west of the Cascades open the last weekend in May – at least for trout. In rivers that have them – hatchery steelhead are open year round, and there’s almost always an open salmon season on those streams as well. Warm water species are open for angling whenever salmon, trout, or steel are open on a given body of water.

But sometimes we just can’t fish – for whatever reason. Blown out waters because of rain storms, cash strapped, work or family needs that take precedent – these things all conspire, at least sometimes, to keep us off the water and inside walls of some sort. What’s a man to do when he craves to be on the water? He makes his suffering worse – by reading about other’s exploits. At least, that’s what I do. Between reading Blogs from other anglers, and being part of two three Internet forums on fishing (iFish.net, Oregon Fishing Forum, and Fly Anglers Online), I read books and magazines. Occasionally I treat myself to a new magazine – but mostly I read my library of old ones. I’ve got 6 years worth of Field & Stream from when I was a teenage boy, along with a couple years of Outdoor Life, In-Fisherman, and Bassmasster Magazine from my short membership in B.A.S.S. I’ve also gathered the occasional copy of Salmon, Trout, Steelheader magazine, Fly Fishing & Tying Journal, Northwest Fisherman, Fishing & Hunting News – that’s a lot of reading material!

My favorite reads though – are books. My library of fishing books is small and focused – it primarily centers around the books by Mr. John Gierach. That man is one of my heros. He lives a fairly simple life, near his favorite waters, in a beautiful mountain town – spending all of his days fishing, hunting, or writing. And he gets *paid* for this. Of course I do not envy his string of broken marriages, or the hardships he’s occasionally faced – the man is honest about them. He’s also fairly honest – as honest as any angler I’ve ever met or conversed with, anyway. But he’s one of the best modern writers I’ve ever read – in any genre. The way he composes a story, or article – puts you right there with him. You can see the river, the woods, the fish, the bald eagle over head. You can feel the heft of that 6 weight bamboo rod as you scan the water for rises, then tie on a tan adams and proceed to hook and land the biggest fish in the pool on the first cast.

And so I read. I’ve got, at last count – 7 of his books – although only 6 titles. I’ve got an old, beat to hell early edition of “Trout Bum” and a more recent paper back printing of the same. It’s my favorite work of his so far.

I’ve also got books by Ed Engle (whom is a friend of Gierach, and a damn good author in his own right), AK Best (another of Gierach’s cohorts, and one of the best fly tiers of the day), Tom Wendelburg, and Jerry Gibbs, among others. Thousands of pages of stories and technical info to absorb. Then there’s the full color photo-orgy books from the Fishing & Hunting Library – most of which were passed down from my dad, a few are excellent Goodwill scores.

Every time I read one of these books, or magazines, I learn something new, or re-learn something I’d forgotten, or it makes me think about how I approach different techniques, or how I approach life in general. And sometimes I don’t do any of that, but I just smile, laugh, and enjoy the moment – temporarily reaching that itchy spot and scratching it just enough to sooth me until I can get back on the water and FISH. Till next time – tight lines.

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2 Comments

  1. Mel / Mar 20 2011 15:42

    Fishing is never very far away when you have a varied library like that to keep you reading. Gierach is something special. If I have time to read anything after checking out all my blogging friends and what they have written about fishing or whatever, then I find myself reaching for my small collection of Patrick McManus books.

  2. Mark / Mar 21 2011 11:07

    Pat McManus is a riot! Most of my OL collection features his column as the very last section – definitely great for a laugh most times. Between Rancid Crabtree and mother nature – it's a surprise anyone could've survived south a youth 😉

    Another author that I really enjoy reading is Gene Hill (RIP). His was the first column I would read whenever I got a new edition of Field & Stream in my hands. The man had a way with words that – similarly to Gierach – would put you right there with him. You could almost see and feel everything – didn't matter if he was talking about new lab pups destined to be his next hunting dog, a well worn but reliable shotgun that harvested doves for both food and fly tying material, or fishing that little stream we all keep tucked away as our healing waters. Some folks just seem to have a natural talent for telling a story, or even making a technical piece – like how to become a tight line nymph fisherman – fun.

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