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John Gierach, master fisherman and author, visits Edwards

Leigh Horton
Special to the Daily
Fly fisherman and author John Gierach visits the Bookworm of Edwards Friday.
Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

Who: Author John Gierach and local fisherman Mark Sassi.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, May 1.

Cost: $40, includes appetizers, one Bonfire Brewery bomber, and a copy of Gierach’s newest book, “All Fishermen are Liars.”

More information: Limited space for the first 40 people. Call 970-926-READ or visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.

EDWARDS — Many of us were introduced to fly-fishing by Robert Redford’s voiceover of “A River Runs Through It.” Women were attracted by Brad Pitt and other beautiful scenery while men latched onto fly fishing’s manly appeal and wild locations.

But once we moved past Hollywood’s version of the sport, dedicated anglers discovered John Gierach, fly-fishing’s most iconic spokesperson. He will be joined by Mark Sassi, a local fly fishing enthusiast, to discuss experiences in the fly-fishing world at The Bookworm of Edwards on Friday at 6 p.m.

Since the 1980s, John Gierach has personified mountain man angling. With shaggy beard and weather-beaten clothes, he graces rivers and pages with his expert cast and Hemingway-esque writing. But his bear-like exterior hides a philosophical worldview about nature and fly fishing.

“The first time I saw someone casting a fly rod, I thought it was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen and I wanted to do it. That was over 40 years ago, and I haven’t changed my mind,” he said.

This lovely sport has an ugly learning curve. Before gracefully arched yellow lines land on the perfect spot on a river, there are tedious years of tangles, flies in bushes, snagged rocks and lost flies. That is especially true for Gierach, a self-taught fisherman who says his thrashing casts and inexpertly chosen flies drew the attention of more skilled fishers.

“There were any number of older guys (it was almost all guys then) who remembered their own painful early struggles and who were willing to stop and offer advice,” Gierach states. “I don’t remember any specific examples; just a succession of fishermen who’d see me flailing, walk over and say something like, ‘Excuse me, do you mind if I make a suggestion?’”

He is now the one making suggestions to his readers, hinting with his newest book title, that it is best not to believe any advice fly-fishers cast out. “All Fishermen Are Liars” will continue to entertain generations of avid and aspiring anglers with Gierach’s to-the-point, no-nonsense writing spanning politics to trout bumming to river rehabilitation.

“For the last 15 years, I’ve written a column for the Redstone Review newspaper in Lyons, Colorado, that covers anything but fishing: politics, technology, travel, cats, you name it. One of the best assignments was to write a long magazine article about the history of western movies. If you grew up with John Wayne movies like I did, spending a month watching old westerns on an expense account was like dying and going to heaven.”

His real loves, however, are fishing and writing, and while few people can say that they have turned their passions into their work, Gierach has mastered the art. But he admits turning passion to profit is challenging.

“There are definitely pitfalls to turning something you love into a livelihood — at least two pitfalls in my case because I love writing and fishing equally. I guess the only saving grace is that I couldn’t do as much of either as I’d like if I had to work at something else to make a living. As it is, I can say, ‘I have to go fishing; it’s my job.’ I continue to write about it either because the subject itself in inexhaustible or because I’ll never quite get it right.”

‘SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE’

Mark Sassi, the event’s host, was introduced to Gierach’s work in the 1990s with “Standing in a River Waving a Stick,” a classic Gierach short story collection. Sassi was an avid fly-fisher with about 20 years of experience waving a Sage stick, and was drawn to Gierach’s simple style to which everyone can relate.

“You do not need to be a fisherperson at all to become intrigued,” Sassi said, “but if you do fish, even a tiny bit, his stories will embrace you in a different way. There is something for everyone in his writing.”

Most importantly, there is passion. Sassi thinks that fly-fishers are the biggest draw to the sport. He states “that people who know me know why I am passionate, and people are turned on to fishing from picking up on my vibe and excitement.”

“I don’t even need to fish,” Sassi observes about his love of the sport. “For me it’s about a place, any place where I can embrace the tranquility, solace and sounds that a river environment provide.”

He intends to delve into the excitement many fishers feel for the sport and the locations, but he is most excited to discover Gierach himself.

“I am very curious if he talks the way he writes,” Sassi said. “I feel like I know him well already and want to see if his writing style transcends into the way he communicates daily.”

Leigh Horton is a bookseller at The Bookworm of Edwards.


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