Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing

Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing

4.4 8
by John Gierach

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From the irrepressible author of Trout Bum and The View from Rat Lake comes an engaging, humorous, often profound examination of life's greatest mysteries: sex, death, and fly-fishing.

John Gierach's quest takes us from his quiet home water (an ordinary, run-of-the-mill trout stream where fly-fishing can be a casual affair) to Utah's famous Green River


From the irrepressible author of Trout Bum and The View from Rat Lake comes an engaging, humorous, often profound examination of life's greatest mysteries: sex, death, and fly-fishing.

John Gierach's quest takes us from his quiet home water (an ordinary, run-of-the-mill trout stream where fly-fishing can be a casual affair) to Utah's famous Green River, and to unknown creeks throughout the Western states and Canada. We're introduced to a lively group of fishing buddies, some local "experts" and even an ex-girlfriend, along the way

Contemplative, evocative, and wry, he shares insights on mayflies and men, fishing and sport, life and love, and the meaning (or meaninglessness) of it all.

Editorial Reviews

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
"Sex, Death and Fly-Fishing" is just a mite on the wordy and undisciplined side. Any subject serves his muse. He even builds an essay, "The Chairman's Bass," around a huge fish he saw but never even tried to catch. But at any point in its 18 essays, one is likely to find a useful tip, a funny line or a passage that catches the mood of a stream exactly right. -- New York Times
Library Journal
The provocative title refers to the opening essay, which deals knowledgeably and humorously with the hatching and mating of short-lived mayflies, and how this phenomenon relates to fishing. Gierach offers plenty of sensible advice, observations, and anecdotes in this 18-essay collection that spans such diverse topics as the dangers of being considered an expert, the pleasures of fly-fishing for unprestigious game fish, and strategies for acquiring fly-tying materials. Western trout streams are a favorite setting, and preservation of nat ural habitats is a frequent theme. Outdoors' enthusiasts will enjoy these casual discourses. Recommended for public libraries.-- Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
From the Publisher
Sports Illustrated If Mark Twain were alive and a modern-day fly-fisherman, he still would be hard put to top John Gierach.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Sex, Death, and Fly-fishing

On a stretch of one of the forks of a small river near where I live in northern Colorado, there is, in the month of July, a fabulous Red Quill spinner fall. As near as I can tell, it consists of at least three different species of these reddish-brown mayflies ranging in size from number 12s down to 16s or 18s. The fall lasts for weeks -- sometimes more than a month -- on and off, coming and going, overlapping, hardly ever the same twice.

No, I don't know which specific bugs are involved and, at the risk of insulting the entomologists, I'm not sure how much it would matter if I did. When the fall comes off, you fish one of the Red Quill or Rusty Spinner patterns in the appropriate size. When it doesn't come off, knowing the Latin name of the insect that is mysteriously absent lets you piss and moan in a dead language, but otherwise doesn't help much.

And there are plenty of evenings when this thing doesn't work out from a fishing standpoint, even though the bugs are at least in evidence on an almost nightly basis. As spinner falls go, this is the spookiest one I've seen, probably only because I've seen so much of it. Usually it has to do with the weather.

Here on the East Slope of the Rocky Mountains midsummer is the season for hot, clear, bluebird days punctuated by late afternoon thundershowers. Mayfly spinners -- most of them, anyway -- like to fall in the evenings when the light is low, and the air is cool and maybe a little damp. That's a little damp; a full-fledged rain can put them off, depending on the timing.

If the rain comes early enough in the day, it's over before the spinnerfall should happen, and it has actually helped things along by chilling and humidifying the air a little. It's part of the local lore that an early shower can mean a good spinner fall later on.

If a thunderstorm comes late enough, after the flies have already formed up over the stream -- and suddenly enough, without announcing itself with too much wind or cool air -- it can flush the bugs into the water where the trout can get them.

This can make for some great fishing, provided the rain is heavy enough to knock the flies down, but not so heavy it makes the water too rough for the trout to see them -- in which case the fish won't feed on them after all.

When that happens, you race downstream in your rain slicker to where the current pools out at the head of a small canyon reservoir in hopes that when the storm passes, the bugs will be collected down there and the trout will rise to them.

That's assuming the rain doesn't last too long, and doesn't muddy the water so much that the trout, once again, can't see the bugs on the surface of the stream, and, once again, won't eat them.

When the rain comes at its more normal time -- a few hours before dusk, before the spinner fall should start -- it may cool the air in the canyon too much, and cancel the event, although you might just hike up there anyway because some nights the weather clears off, warms up just enough (but not too much), gets very still, and the spinner fall is unusually heavy.


Not always.

And I am not being sarcastic when I say that trout are known to be particularly fond of spinners.

On rare overcast, drizzly afternoons, the Red Quill dun hatch can last late, and the spinner fall can come early, giving you hours of good fishing with a transition point when both forms of the bug are on the water at once. Many trout can be caught on dry flies then if you're smart enough to notice what's happening with the weather, drop everything at home, and get up there early. Under gray skies and drizzle, dusk is usually too late.

Wet, gloomy summer days are unusual in semiarid Colorado, and this has only happened three times that I know of in something like ten years. I missed it once, although I sure heard about it later from some friends who were there. They caught lots of trout, including some big ones. It was great, they said, in a not so subtle tone of accusation.

The assumption out here is, you should always go fishing, period. If you don't, even for what might appear in other circles to be a good reason, the suspicion is that you are getting uppity or, even worse, lazy. You get some grief for staying home, and when the fishing was great, well...

People will forgive you for missing it once or twice, but no more than that.

On other days when I was there and ready, the air got too cool, or a stiff breeze came up, or the drizzle got too drizzly, or something. Once it was looking just right until a sheet of hail drew itself across the canyon like a gauze curtain, and my friend Koke Winter and I ended up huddling in the flimsy cover of a juniper tree getting whacked hard by a few less hailstones than if we'd been standing out in the open. A big one got me square on the back of the hand when I reached out to pick a nearly ripe raspberry. By morning I had a bruise the size of a quarter.

It was all over in about twenty minutes, and the evening slid into ideal, textbook conditions -- cool, still, dusky, humid -- except that not a single swallow flashed in the air over the stream to eat the bugs because there were no flies, and not a single trout rose for the same reason. The sky was clear with stars, the air was freshly washed and thick with clean, organic smells, the reservoir was a dark, disk-shaped mirror. To anyone but a fly-fisherman it would have seemed peaceful and quite pretty.

We figured the hail had killed all the flies and knocked all the trout senseless, so we went home. Koke doesn't drink anymore, so we couldn't even stop for a beer.

For the absolutely cosmic spinner fall, it seems as though perfect conditions have to also be preceded by perfect conditions, and I don't know how far back in time this meteorological juggling act has to go. I do know that even a slightly larger dose of what would normally be ideal is deadly. I suppose there's a lesson there.

It seems like your best bet for a workmanlike, day-to-day spinner fall is a clear, warm evening with no wind. This kind of conservative weather stops short of being the model of perfection, but it doesn't court disaster either.

The more you fish the more you start seeing these things the way a farmer does: it doesn't have to be great, just, please, don't let it be awful.

On those days you hike up the stream with the last direct rays of sunlight still on the water. This is a shallow, stooped-shouldered, forested canyon with a few rock outcrops at the water, and a few more standing up at the lip. The slope is gentle enough lower down to allow for some patches of wild grass. The stream has a sand and sandstone bottom, so even when it's clear it can seem to have a brownish cast to it. Some evenings it gets amber for a few seconds just before the light goes off it.

A good hundred yards downstream from the riffle we always start at, you can see the swarm of mayflies high in the air above the stream, dipping and climbing, their clear wings flashing. At these times they look like they're spinning, hence the name.

These particular mayflies seem to begin mating about the time the light goes off them. It's not a deep canyon, and it runs roughly east and west, so the sun stays on the water longer than you'd think it should. Not that you're likely to be impatient or anything. The bugs copulate on the wing, and then begin to fall on the water right around dark.

Sometimes, as the insects dip lower and lower over the stream, the odd, eager brown trout will jump out of the water and try to grab one. He seldom gets it. Nine times out of ten this is a little fish and you ignore it, but when it's a big trout you tie on an upright-winged Red Quill and cast it over there.

He almost never takes it. I know this to be true, but I have yet to figure out

Meet the Author

John Gierach is the author of numerous books on fly-fishing. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and Fly Rod & Reel, where he is a regular columnist. He also writes a column for the monthly Redstone Review. He lives in Lyons, Colorado. Visit

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Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
OutdoorsInIdaho More than 1 year ago
I travel quite extensively and look for material that helps me connect with my hobbies. This book does that very well. There are many great stories in here relating places and events that aren't all that insightful as to a major learning event, but do help conjure the memories and musings one has when their hunting fish with a fly rod. I was able to remember many similar times in the water, and the writing style also is easy, yet descriptive enough for me to easily picture a scene. I plan on reading more of Mr. Gierach's books.
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TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
I can't decide whether this man is a better writer than he is fisherman. How can I know? Fisherman are known to lie--nay, exaggerate, perhaps--but it sounds as though his catch-and-release has allowed him years of fishing pleasure, pain, and travail as is only right for one who writes of it. I adore his crotchety voice, his clear descriptions of locales we outsiders will never see, had we the time and the hand-tyed flies. The laconic tales of grown men who spend their time (and not just vacations and weekends!) catching fish, only to release them again, somehow makes the absurdity of our modern life more bearable. The effort lavished on the deceit by the artful tying of a fly that matches a molt that occurs only once a season must describe the craziest hobbyist or the most righteous artist at his task. This kind of passion enriches his life, and ours, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NO" he punches her face then turns her over and puts his in her azz hole
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Oh yes!" She cried out ans put a finger in her own as<_>shole
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember way back then. U turned 14. U were such a cute little kid.