john mcphee,    new yorker,    Writing

How to Write a Fly Fisherman's Obituary

Posted by Tom Chandler 1/31/2011

I read the New Yorker magazine from one cover to the next, and while it contains damned little fly fishing information, it does publish some of the best writing to reach paper.

This issue throws us outdoor sporting types a lucidly written bone; it contains a lovely John McPhee remembrance of a fly fisherman who also happened to be a New Yorker Editor:

Pat Crow, who died last week, liked to fish from Table Rock, in the middle of the Delaware, three hundred river miles above the ocean. With heavy currents high up his chest, he would make his way there without the aid of a wading staff, climb up, stand in water scarcely covering his ankles, and walk around on the rock's remarkably flat top, where he could be king of the universe, or at least of a river two hundred feet from bank to bank. From his red head to his wading shoes, he was every inch a king, and around the middle as well.

Among many reasons he liked the rock was that it weighed more than he did. It weighed a hundred and fifty tons. Pat was an easy and supple, drape-fold flycaster. At his vise, he was a meticulous, artistic tier, and spent many additional hours just puttering with his inventories of reels, lines, rods, and tapered leaders, even going so far as to release from his own surface a rare outburst of emotion ("I love my gear!").

You can wrap your wondering eyes around the rest of McPhee's piece here, and while you'll learn nothing about fly fishing, you'll learn plenty about writing a witty eulogy.

When he wasn't busy winning the Pulitzer Prize, McPhee also wrote The Founding Fish - an entertaining history of the American Shad and his obsession with the fish.

It's well worth a few dollars from your wallet and few hours of your time.

See you reading a magazine, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

I read Uncommon Carriers a year ago; the story about he barge – which barely fit on the river, sometimes with only a few feet of clearance – was astonishing. Looking For a Ship is very interesting as well - it's hard to find a book of McPhee's that isn't. The Control of Nature - especially the essay on LA mudslides comes to mind also.
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Thanks for the link, Tom. Still two issues of The New Yorker to catch up to that one. Just wonderful writing, so clear I was on the Delaware, despite having never been anywhere near there.
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I read Uncommon Carriers a year ago; the story about he barge - which barely fit on the river, sometimes with only a few feet of clearance - was astonishing.
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Annals is a great book - almost overwhelming (Basin and Range is a great chapter). Haven't read Irons in the Fire - thanks for the heads up.
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If you like 'The Founding Fish', try wrapping your fishy minds around 'Annals of the Former World'. Series of geology themed essays, published individually and combinded later into a 900 page toilet sitting page turner. Also 'Irons in the Fire' about cattle ranching industry in Nevada. Good reads.
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My favorite McPhee book is A Sense of Where You Are. Fantastic book about Bill Bradley.
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Second the recommendation of "The Founding Fish". Super book.
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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by tcunderground, Daniel P. Sullivan. Daniel P. Sullivan said: RT @tcunderground: New Post: How to Write a Fly Fisherman's Obituary http://bit.ly/fHDl5O [...]
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Nice post Tom - thanks.
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