By Marty Jones
The first group is actually pretty small, and includes instructional books about fly-tying, such as Jack Dennis’ Western Trout Fly-Tying Manual. Also in this category is The Curtis Creek Manifesto by Sheridan Anderson, a book that would be considered a graphic text, not really a comic book, but written in that fashion. It’s quite an interesting book, and I can certainly recommend it. For example, when Anderson is writing about casting, he states “If it’s easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.” He also suggests that you “latch onto a knowledgeable angler to go fishing with – a good teacher is worth more than all the angling literature ever written”, a statement I think we can all heartily agree with.
The second group includes such books as Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, Flyfisher’s Guide to New Mexico by Van Beacham, and Colorado Flyfishing, by Mark Williams and Chad McPhail. I’ll be honest – I rely more on fellow anglers for Where To information than on books. Also very useful are magazines such as Southwest Fly Fishing for current Where To information.
I put books containing essays by John Gierach’s primarily into the third category (Why To). You just can’t go wrong with Trout Bum or Another Lousy Day in Paradise or Standing in a River Waving a Stick. Great titles, and great reads. Why to? From Dances with Trout, “That’s always been an interesting question to me, but I’m beginning to think the only people who really care are a handful of writers and some idly curious nonanglers. The fishermen who don’t worry about it are the ones who seem to be having the most fun.” (By the way, Mr. Gierach has a brand-new book coming out in June of 2020 entitled Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers). Some readers might include Mr. Gierach’s books in the Where To category, since he does talk about fishing in various locations throughout the world. However, his descriptions of places are general in nature rather than specific (a characteristic that many of us certainly appreciate).
The fourth category includes mystery novels which involve fly fishing as a primary focus. Keith McCafferty is probably the most prolific author in this category, with at least seven titles (e.g., The Royal Wulff Murders and The Grey Ghost Murders). McCafferty’s protagonist, Sean Stranahan, is a part-time private detective, part-time fishing guide and part-time artist who lives and works in Montana. In addition to fishing and at least one murder, each book also contains local wildlife (and human) politics, drinking, art, and sex. Another author in this category is David Leitz, author of Dying to Fly Fish and Flyfishing Can Be Fatal, which are set in Vermont. His books are a bit harder to find, requiring searching used bookstores or the Internet.
“Other” books include The River Why, My Life as Told By Water and River Teeth, by David James Duncan; Notes from the San Juans and San Juan River Chronicles by Steven Myers; Spring Creek by Nick Lyons, and of course, A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean. These books are more philosophical and/or ecological in nature. For example, one essay in My Life as told By Water, is entitled “The Non Sense of Place” and in this essay, Duncan states “No matter how circumstance has dealt with us, or how disenfranchised or placeless we’ve become, we will never be dispossessed of the right to feel at home in these little blood-filled bodies on this reeling planet, as often as we can, as deeply as we can, any God-blessed place we possibly can”.
I am so lucky to consider the San Luis Valley my home place.