The legendary fly-fishing author John Gierach is at it again with a new book fresh off the press: “All Fishermen are Liars by John Gierach.
Tenkara and Tenkara USA are featured in it as Gierach memorializes the time when I invited myself to come to Colorado and teach him tenkara. Over the weekend I caught up with Gierach in the writer’s den to talk about tenkara.
By Ron P. Swegman
All Fishermen Are Liars
By John Gierach
Hardback, 211 pp.
Simon & Schuster, April 2014
Please set aside the Great American Novel for the span of a pocket water drift and consider the True Fish Story. Is it a lie? Does it maybe have to be? Is there no real Truth with a capital T?
One is truly tethered to a fish after a trout takes. A large community of readers has been similarly, and willingly, ensnared to Gierach’s words as his stories flow yearly and clearly. The readers have risen, lured by what time has proven to be a Great American Writer.
John Gierach, angler and author, works an artistic craft in a more circumscribed space. His is a prose equivalent of lyric poetry rather than chiseled odyssey. Emily Dickinson, Franz Schubert, Johannes Vermeer; a tone cultivating Muromachi texture of page. A master of a shorter form where the weight comes from the collected work; its deep variety and diversity of subject and theme within an engaging, lyrical style.
Did not Henry James, man of letters, write something along the rails of “To write a series of good little tales I deem ample work for a lifetime.” . . . ?
All Fishermen Are Liars perpetuates a three-decade run from an author who continues to polish the stone without it going dull.
Gierach, the man, the true, remains half hidden in passing mist despite much direct printed reportage from his angling life. All Fishermen Are Liars then begins with great irony. “A Day at the Office” is a second-person autobiography of the complete man in the space of about a dozen pages. There are no hard dates or names named, yet most of the moments that make a life are related in rich detail. The sleeping bags spread across a communal apartment floor are as clear as the fact the author now requires an accountant. What more is needed??
True Fish Stories might be the most immediate answer. Here we hear from the reliable posts in Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming as well as “New Water” that anyone who in childhood passed over anonymous creeks from the backseat can enjoy. What is that water? Can it be fished? Gierach answers those questions, and does. Meanwhile, a reader might learn he or she has lived somewhat the same life: from homemade cane pole on foot, to bamboo by four-wheel drive, to lodge via chartered plane.
Another source of Gierach’s freshness may be tracked to his diverse cast of characters like the muskellunge and smallmouth bass (“Smallies”) and traditional Japanese fly fishing (“Tenkara”). His headfirst jump into the latest of ye olde fishing styles brought back to commercial life rings . . . TRUE. Anyone who has cast a kebari along a freestone creek with one of these limber telescoping long rods will know just how exciting wrestling a trout without a reel can be.
Gierach fills in the sensory details with an air brush. He relates some fundamental advantages of the telescoping rod; its lack of guides, the precision inherent in both level and traditional tapered line. He combines a pleasant kitchen scene with a sincere painted portrait of Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo. The angling author’s voice here echoes back to his more instructional books such as Flyfishing the High Country, Flyfishing Small Streams, and Good Flies, which many readers, borne on bright March days, may welcome.
The writing in hand reads too quickly at times. The reason is the right one; it is that good. Each individual story in All Fisherman Are Liars resembles a boulder garden giving trout around each rock. You shall find yourself standing beside the narrator, sipping coffee, as the sun also rises over Lake Superior (“Coasters”). You might be also hypnotized by the road until you see The End. One finishes the book satisfied with another several years’ worth of splendid metaphors, witty phrases, descriptive passages, and wisdom on the contemporary human condition.
Is all contained or inferred upon these pages true? Yes . . . that one must be left up the reader