A Life Worth Living: The Adventures of a Passionate Sportsmanby Jack Hemingway, Geoffrey Norman (Editor)
Jack Hemmingway, son of Ernest Hemingway and one of America's best-known outdoorsmen, has written a warm and candid memoir of his life as an incorrigible sportsman. But be forewarned - this is not a how-to book, nor a guide to secret places, though there is plenty of expertise and uncharted territory to be discovered here.Jack's season of a sportsman begins
Jack Hemmingway, son of Ernest Hemingway and one of America's best-known outdoorsmen, has written a warm and candid memoir of his life as an incorrigible sportsman. But be forewarned - this is not a how-to book, nor a guide to secret places, though there is plenty of expertise and uncharted territory to be discovered here.Jack's season of a sportsman begins appropriately in the spring, at a dude ranch in Clark's Fork Valley, near the Yellowstone River. As an awkward six-year-old threading live grasshoppers on old, worn-out wet flies his father Ernest had discarded, Jack found his lifelong passion in much the same way his father had so many years earlier as a child on Walloon Lake in Michigan. His summer would bring steelhead on the North Umpqua, fishing with Papa's newly christened "Christ Pants" that enabled him to "walk on water," and looking for trout along the Danube in the aftermath of World War II. Fall brings expeditions to the steelhead-laden tributaries of the Snake River, fishing for Atlantic salmon, along with time for reflection and Jack's fervent belief that "there is always something new to learn."Balancing a self-effacing humor with a delicacy of prose both graceful and knowing, along with an introduction by Geoffrey Norman and a foreword contributed by Angela Hemingway, A Life Worth Living is a touching memoir of a lifetime spent practicing the sport he and his father both loved so much. (6 1/4 x 9 1/4, 288 pages, color photos)Jack Hemingway was an avid fly fisherman and sportsman for more than sixty years, and the son of Ernest Hemingway, one of the century's towering literary figures. His death in 2000 was marked on television and in newspapers and magazines around the world. This posthumous publication is his second book.
- Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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- 6.86(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.97(d)
Read an Excerpt
The spring of my fishing life began in the West, at a dude ranch in the valley of the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone. It was my sixth year, and my father had the wit and wisdom to let me build up a desire to fish on my own. In fact, he allowed me only to watch him for the greater part of that summer before finally permitting me to try with some of his old, back-up equipment.
A pond with some lovely little eastern brook trout and a back eddy of the Clark's Fork near the cabin became my haunts for the last few weeks of our stay. Though I used a fly rod and line, I threaded morning-caught grasshoppers on old, worn wet flies my father had discarded. I learned that the back eddy would sink the baited fly if I let it float naturally until the vortex sucked it down. This was almost invariably followed by a hesitation of the line and an overstrong strike. Sometimes such a strike resulted in a small golden-hued cutthroat trout being snatched from the water and landing at a point behind me. There I would pounce on it and put it in one of the Hardy Bros. woven grass bags that, in those days, my father used for creels. The pond, on the other hand, proved frustrating and the green-backed brookies with their white-edged pectorals haunted my winter dreams.
My second summer at the ranch, I converted from grasshoppers to wet flies, the method my father used. It was basic wet-fly technique, casting down and across with silk lines and tapered gut leaders nine feet long with two or more flies premounted on droppers in addition to the tippet fly. It served me well, and I was soon catching more and slightly larger fish than I had with the hoppers. I also became more mobile, riding my horse farther and farther afield to explore and fish lakes, ponds, and streams throughout the area. In those first few years of fishing at the ranch, my objective was to catch lots of trout. Whatever fish Papa didn't want for breakfast were welcomed at the ranch kitchen.
This springtime of my fishing life continued into my late teens. Being sent to prep school back East in the Hudson Highlands did not interfere with my progress, for I managed to develop a certain skill in upstream low water worming in the little brooks that ran through the Black Rock Forest. It was there in the few stretches of those tiny streams adequate to the purpose that I discovered the possibilities of upstream nymphing (without the travesty of an indicator). The number of fish caught continued to have some importance, but my father's early admonition never to waste any fish or game established my limits. The concept of catch-and-release had not yet spread beyond a few experimenters in Michigan, where the Hazzard plan was first instituted on some waters by Trout Unlimited, and the Paradise in Belfont, Pennsylvania. I had not yet heard of this idea and was much too busy learning and honing my skills to worry about anything more than finding new fishing grounds and more and bigger fish.
When I was sixteen, my mother and stepfather, Paul Mowrer, gave me a used Pontiac, which I was permitted to drive by myself from Chicago to the Crossed Sabers dude ranch west of Cody, Wyoming, where they were spending part of the summer. Having the car at the ranch enabled me to broaden my fishing horizons well beyond the nearby waters of the Shoshone River and its tributaries, and Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area became my next nirvana. A fly fisherman also vacationing at the Crossed Sabers helped me along with some Bivisible dry flies and a few pointers on line handling during the drift and retrieve. He was just one of many fishermen over the years who helped to point me in the right direction. He encouraged me to try the dries on the big water of the main Shoshone, where I had my first few successes, but the clincher came when I drove into Yellowstone and had my first session of dry-fly fishing on the Madison.
The stretch I chose has seldom ever produced well for me since, but that day it was to provide a magic moment. I chose fast water, the type I was familiar with in the freestone Shoshone, but with the dark bottom lent by the volcanic rocks and, of course, verdant weed beds wherever the current slackened along the sides of the run. Although I detected no apparent rises, I had read George LaBranche's The Dry Fly and Fast Water, and, trying to follow his dictates, fished the current methodically, false-casting between drifts to dry my fly. In the shallow water at the head of the run, my fly disappeared into a hollow in the current created by what then seemed to me to be the biggest trout I had ever seen fishing. My reaction was slow because of my surprise, and consequently, I did not strike too fast. The fish was on. It turned out not to be any bigger than the cutthroat trout my mother and Paul and I had caught on wet flies along the shores of Yellowstone Lake and on the upper Yellowstone River, but what a difference in its strength and my excitement. At eighteen inches, it was my first brown trout over fourteen, and though he was an ugly hookjawed male, he looked beautiful to me with his spots Ming red in the afternoon sun.
The dry fly became an obsession after that first brown on the Madison, and I think that I caught the "big fish" bug then as well. That marked the late spring of my fly fisher's life.
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