Interview,    john gierach,    john gierach interview,    no shortage of good days,    trout bum,    Writing

John Gierach Talks About Trout Bumhood, Life, Fly Fishing's Class Wars, and Extreme Fly Fishing

Posted by Tom Chandler 9/1/2011 10 minutes

John Gierach has been called the Father of the Modern Trout Bum, and while he'd suggest he's not The Trout Bum -- just the one who happened to write about the lifestyle first -- he's still fly fishing's best-selling contemporary writer.

John Gierach, Trout Bum, writer

As testament to his broad appeal, all 16 of his essay books -- dating back to the original Trout Bum in 1986 -- are still in print. In a small publishing niche -- where 4,000 books is a pretty good run for an essay title -- Gierach's hardcovers and paperbacks sell upwards of 60,000-70,000 books per title.

In other words, not only does Gierach have a lot of fans, he's one of the tiny handful of fly fishing writers (some suggest he's the only writer) making a decent living in the fly fishing genre.

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He's also an interesting interview; he's remarkably unguarded, and as a result, the conversation tends to take on interesting shapes. As an interviewer, you're willing to take a few chances to see what happens.

A note about this interview; Gierach and I talked at length and he also answered a few questions via email, and while I tried to avoid transcription errors, any odd Gierach phrasings or other errors are the result of my frantic scribbling. I did rearrange the order of the larger subject areas, and at times chopped away some of the less-relevant digressions.

Without further qualification...

Gierach On "No Shortage Of Good Days"

Q: In an interview, you suggested your earlier books were cobbled-together essay collections, but that later efforts are actually books that have been pieced out as essays. Which of those best describes No Shortage of Good Days?Actually, I would say this new one is more on that older model. I think what I meant is that I have a book in mind, and I sometimes write the essays that way. I sort of carry a book in my mind, but it's not like I have an outline already written.

I'm an instinctive writer; I don't think about this stuff. I suspect I'm a guy who has been picking away at this same theme for the last 16 books.

Q: That theme being?
My theme is how do you live in the world as it is, while that world really tries to step on that? That's really the only question isn't it; how do you live?

Q: You refer to what I'll call "fly fishing's class wars" a bit more here than in prior books.
I think I notice it more. I'm more aware of it because I end up stumbling into this other end of it. For the longest time I was just this little blue collar fly fishing hippie, and as I get more well known, I'm suddenly in these places I never dreamed I'd find, or in some cases even existed.

If you're a writer -- hell a thinking human being -- you're bound to ask yourself exactly what this means. And what's my role, I'm here as a guest, and I paid for the plane ticket, but this trip would have cost a $100K if I'd paid for it, which you couldn't even do.

As something of a populist, how am I supposed to feel about this?

So yeah, you think about this stuff. It's just odd. This is how some people do it. We're all some kind of populists out here in the west, and you have to ask why isn't this public water?

I don't know if I have an answer.

Q: Your earlier books introduced us to people like AK Best, Mike Clark and Ed Engle -- and did so in some depth -- yet the people you write about these days don't seem as fully revealed to your readers. It that a conscious thing? Did you find people getting skittish about showing up in your books?
The reason is that I don't know those people as well. I don't know Jim Babb as well as I know AK Best. I don't have the decades of history with some of these folks. And I may have said all there is to say about these guys, at least publicly. I mean I know a lot of stuff about AK Best that is none of my business, let alone any of yours, and maybe I've exhausted everything that needs to be publicly said.

When you're writing about your friends, they're kind of trusting you. I can reveal stuff about myself, but that's my decision.

And yes, I'm traveling more on my own. It's the worse recession in 30 years; everybody's broke.

Q: I'm tempted to label this the small stream book --- there might be more references to small streams in this book than there are in your actual small stream book.
I'll have to check that, but these things are autobiographical, and that's what I've been doing a lot lately.

Q: How do you think you fit into a more extreme fly fishing media landscape?
I'm suspicious of this trend towards making fly fishing an extreme sport. For example, on this book tour, I'm constantly asked "what do you think about the fly fishing film tour?"

I appreciate the adventure and the fishing they're showing and technically it's awesome stuff, but that's just not the sport I recognize. Maybe I'm a little more invested in this pastoral stuff.

Q: That's interesting. The video guys are trying make a living by going fishing and selling the experience, so in one sense, they're the new Gierachs, the new trout bums -- they're your children.
I... I guess I can accept that. They're into a counter-culture head -- they live outside the mainstream.

And while I say I don't recognize the sport, I do recognize those guys. Those are bohemian guys who don't give a shit what anyone thinks about what they're doing -- they're doing it for love, and I certainly recognize and understand that.

And those guys will grow up.

Q: In our earlier interview I compared Trout Bum to Kerouac's On the Road, the idea being Trout Bum afforded fly fishers permission to view the sport -- which was saddled with a painfully highbrow image -- in a different context. It was possible to see it from the perspective of a subsistence, almost hippie, nearly obsessive lifestyle that also happened to be no big deal.
Again, I heard that a lot -- that I wrote some kind of counterculture testament. You weren't hearing about it, but what was going on was that there was a handful of guys in the West living this way; all these guys were exploring fly fishing as a possible path to enlightenment.

So while I think it's fair to say Trout Bum was counter-culture, it's also true I was just reporting what was going on. That's what journalists do -- they pick up the stuff they're doing and start talking about it.

Q: I'd suggest you've achieved a largely iconic status, yet you seem largely bemused by it, especially while someone is fawning over you in a vid...
[Interrupting] Well, what would you do?

[ED: Point taken.]

Gierach on Steelheading

You once said that fly fishing for steelhead was going to be "your next thing." Have you become one of those existentialist steelheaders?
I do it as much as I can; but I'm in the wrong place. I'm too far away.

I try to get out twice a year; in some years it's only once. A couple times I didn't go at all. One problem I had was that I was always trying to fish in the winter, which seemed like a great deal; go out and catch a steelhead when the fishing here was limited.

Problem is the flows are unstable and you plan a trip and the river's blown out and you go anyway -- which happened on one trip, when we probably shouldn't have even gone. I suppose you're kind of buffalo hunting -- you're doing something without much chance of success, but it's there to do, and you might as well do it.

I finally started fishing in the fall, which makes all the difference in the world. You can use floating lines, the fish are more predictable and it's not as cold.

Still, fishing in winter is really compelling; I recently fished a river I've been spey casting with conventional lines without success. I had no idea what wasn't working, but my fly had no ability to get down.

Someone loaned me a new kind of sinking line and the clouds parted. The casting's great and you can rocket those things across the river. Of course I'm a fly fisherman, so I came home and got on the phone and called people and told them I've got these rods, now what do I need to do this kind of thing?

So the winter fish are hard, but they're still worth it. They're huge and they're bright and they're raspy and they still have sea lice on them.

It's worth it. It's just worth it.

You may only get one or a few, but it's like rhinoceros hunting; you don't bag thirty of them, you get your Teddy Roosevelt picture holding it and leave it at that. It's not about the body count, and more people should probably fish trout that way. They really should.

Q: You've been fly fishing for decades, yet when it comes to steelheading, you might be in the same boat as your average reader; it's something you don't do often enough to really stay sharp.
That's right. Especially at first, when I was learning, I'd have trouble. But the last couple of times I've pretty much gone out and flubbed the first 2-3 casts, mostly because I was pushing with my top hand instead of pulling with the bottom. I'd remind myself to pull, and lately, I've recovered pretty quickly, and then I'm just fishing.

The thing I had to learn about spey casting was this; like so much in fly fishing, people make it more complicated than it has to be. I mean, It's a change of direction roll cast. You put that loop in the right spot and punch it, and it's going to go. You just have to remember to pull more on the bottom hand than the top hand.

Q: So why -- given the distance -- are you still doing it?
I don't get jaded, but at the same time, I've been fly fishing for at least 35 years, and it's cool to do something new. There's an enthusiasm. And yes, it's kind of less important that I catch fish now.

If you really don't care about catching fish, you should just quit. But then, I write about actually catching fish a lot less than I used to.

My first time steelheading, I fished a week and caught two fish.

Q: You seem to have a predilection for that kind of difficult fishing -- you keep returning to it. You fished at least a week in Scotland without a bite, your Atlantic Salmon trips have been hardly any better, and now you're bombing around the Northwest to catch a couple fish over the course of a week.
When I fish small streams, I tend to catch a lot of fish and that's great, but steelheading is very different. I know my local small streams pretty intimately and I've got the timing down, but with steelhead, you're suddenly playing chess against somebody who really knows what they're doing.

Especially when I go steelheading in the fall, I'll come off my small creeks -- which I fish about as well as anybody and I catch a lot of fish, and then I'm not.

And it's really interesting to go out to somewhere and fish eight hours a day for a week and not catch anything, which is still really interesting to me.

It's hard and it kind of makes you dig a little deeper -- the idea that I'm going to fish my brains out and fish as well as I can and maybe I'll catch one, maybe I won't.

I've been doing this a long time, and there's a lot of water within a day's drive of my home I still haven't fished yet. The stuff you know still applies, but there's always some new wrinkle you have to work out. That's just fascinating to me.

Gierach On Writing For a Living

Q: Editors of fly fishing magazines have admitted their pay rates essentially haven't gone up since the 70s, and you're probably one of two writers making a living in the fly fishing space. Have things gotten better or worse for writers in the fly fishing space?
The only reason I make a living is Simon && Schuster. There was a time when it possible to make a passable living freelancing [articles]. But that's not the case any more.

This book is like my 16th; and they're all out there making money for me.

The guys now aren't making much money. I'm not sure I would be able to do today what I did then.

I'm frankly glad I don't have to figure it out.

Q: What do you think about fly fishing's online writers, the bloggers and ezine writers?
The quality of the writing is there, but the density isn't. Something looks good and the idea is there, but then the essay just stops short. I don't know if people are going to stretch out, or if this is the way it's going.

Q: For a while you were writing for the New York Times; what's it like to be a trout bum writing for this monstrous newspaper?
The problem was this; they were publishing one column a month, and that column would get bumped if a football player got a hangnail, and I called them and told them I couldn't keep writing columns that I wasn't going to get paid for.

The editor didn't get it, and so I asked her if she had someone else she could call. She mentioned another guy, and I told her to call him next time.

It was the New York Times and it was very prestigious, and I wasn't making any money.

Q: In the fly fishing niche -- where an essay book is doing pretty well if it sells 4,000 copies -- your first print runs are rumored to be in the 70,000 copy range. True?
For my last book I think they printed 26,000 hardcover copies, so if you add in the the paperback sales, that number is probably close (ED: I got the estimate from a well known book distributor.]

Q: That's a lot of books in this industry. Why have you sold so many books and endured so long?
I have no absolutely no idea why that is; in private moments I'll start to think I'm really that good, but that never lasts. I really think it's because I've been around just so damned long.

Q: Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome?
What's that?

Q: Every writer I've spoken to says that even after their first couple successes, they kept waiting to be discovered for the frauds they are.
Oh yeah, sure. I'm still waiting.

Q: You've said you write mostly in the winter so you can fish during the warmer months; is that strictly true, or do your deadlines enforce a fairly regular writing routine?
It's as true as I can make it, but of course the reality of deadlines keeps me working more or less year around. It would be more accurate to say that I allow myself as much time as I want or need in season to fish locally or travel. And I still get the vast majority of work done over the winter.

Q: If so, do you write every day or chase XXXX words per week, or...?
I spend at least some time on the writing most of the days I'm home. That's usually composing or editing, but also sometimes writing to editors and my agent and the other business that inevitably comes up. My problem isn't forcing myself to write because I do it compulsively. My problem is forcing myself to stop for a while when I get stale.

I don't chase word counts. A few thousand words a day is great (although they could eventually end up dumped or seriously pruned back) but so is a good, solid paragraph. Even a morning where I end up shit-canning every word amounts to progress because I've eliminated one possibility.

Q: With so many essays and articles under your belt, do you begin with some kind of formal process (outline, brainstorm, etc), or are you comfortable simply diving in? If so, what do you do when the thing comes off the rails on the 1456th word?
I like to start with an idea and a couple of thoughts about it and then dive in. I'm an instinctive, stream of consciousness writer, so I like to just turn over an interesting rock and see what crawls out.

When a story comes off the rails - and most do at one time or another - I leave it alone for a while. Sometimes it all comes clear the next morning. Other times it takes a month. Sometimes the problem is just the order of the story. A few months ago I had what I thought was a good lead, but it went nowhere. Then I realized it wasn't the lead, it was the conclusion. Once in a great while a story just stalls and I abandon it.

Q: What writing tools do you use, and are you a stickler about them - or are you largely word processor/editor agnostic?
I use a computer. I wrote hundred of articles and three or four books on a typewriter way back when. I resisted computers, but after re-typing several book manuscripts, I opted for less drudgery.

Q: Any quirky writer behavior you'd like to reveal here for the first time ever (instantly embarrassing or endearing you to my readers?
Nothing all that quirky or endearing. I drink lots of coffee, stare out the widow a lot, talk to the cats, take long hikes on afternoons when I'm not fishing, carry a notebook at all times. I do like to work in the morning when, as a poet friend says, the mind is still informed by the non-linear dream world. I don't know about that, but I do sometimes go to bed stuck and wake up knowing what comes next.

Q: With the rapid arrival of ebooks, have you wrangled with your publishers over things like ebook or other digital publishing issues? (e.g. some writers have rejected the 75%/25% royalty split publishers are trying to enforce on ebooks.)
I've sold ebook rights to some older books (that were published before such things existed) and electronic rights have been included in more recent contracts. I get slightly better than the usual split, thanks to my agent.

Q: Has the rise of digital publishing affected your writing -- or the business end of things -- at all?
Not that I can tell.

Q: You once said: "I happen to have fallen into this thing where I write mostly about fishing and outdoor sports but I could have gone another way." You're best known for your essays, but have you ever thought about branching out into fiction, or even writing a mainstream outdoor book?
I've written and published some sporting fiction - most thinly fictionalized accounts of real events. I've also written a column for the last dozen years for the Redstone Review published in Lyons, Colorado that you could describe as politics/social commentary. To write a mainstream fishing book I'd have to be an expert fisherman, which I'm not.

Q: How did you end up writing fly fishing essays -- a market which supports few writers (and seems to be getting even less lucrative than in the past)?
I started out doing it just for the money while I worked on what I thought would be a career as a "serious writer" (whatever that means.) Then it just became the place where two passions came together and that was that. Also, when I started it was a more lucrative market than it is now. But it wasn't a business decision. Anyone who takes up writing for the money is an idiot.

Q: You often mention Tom McGuane, Annie Dillard and Jim Harrison as favorite writers in part because they do very well what you're trying to do. Who else would you recommend to your readers?
Alice Munro (new favorite), Richard Russo, Richard Ford, Scott Spencer, Larry Watson, Ernest Hemingway (the early Michigan stories and The Old Man and the Sea), John Casey, Ethan Canin, Ted Leeson, Tobias Wolff, James Galvin (The meadow), etc.

[ED: Gierach also said -- in relation to Thomas McGuane -- that: I will admit right here in print that The Longest Silence is better than anything I've written.]

Q: You've been in the writing business for approximately a bazillion years; what mistakes do you see younger/novice writers making over and over?
Worrying about showing how well they can write at the expense of serving the story they're telling. The best writing is usually transparent.

Q: Any advice for other writers looking to make a dent in outdoor writing?
Beware of the Internet. If you want to make a living, you have to get paid.

Favorite Child Questions

Q: Can you point to a Gierach book (or even essay) as your favorite?
My favorite book is always the most recent one. That's partly because it's still fresh and partly because I'm trying to get better and want to think my most recent work should be my best.

Q: Favorite small stream fly rod?
My favorite for the last few years (ever since I got it) is a 7-foot 9-inch 4-weight bamboo made by Walter Babb of Sweetwater, Tennessee.

Q: Favorite species of trout?
Hard to pick between cutthroats and brook trout.

Q: Favorite fishing truck?
My current 2000 V-6 Nissan Frontier.

Older TU Posts Related To No Shortage of Good Days

Review of No Shortage of Good Days

Gierach on fly fishing's class wars

Gierach on getting old

Small stream syndrome

Too cheap to pay someone to write
Destinations
The City of Boulder has a population of around 100,000 strong. Boulder is an outdoor town and the flyfishing community is strong here. The town is famous for its colorful Western history ... moreand being a choice destination for hippies in the late 1960s. Boulder is the home of the main campus of the University of Colorado, the state's largest university. Because of its connection to nature the city of Boulder frequently acquires top rankings in health, well-being, quality of life, education and art.

A number of fly shops and guide services cater to those that want to explore the eastern slope of the rockies. Supreme fisheries are in close proximity. Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, Big Thomson, St. Vrain, Blue River and Rocky Mountain National Part are close by.

The "Park" as locals call it has countless lakes and streams to be explored. If you're up for stalking the most georgeous cutthroat on a fly, this is the place to come to. Visit Moraine Park where you can hunt nice brown trout in undercut banks or stop at any of the high mountain lakes for an adventure or a lifetime.
Fishing Waters
Southwest of Denver, the South Platte River is formed by the convergence of the South Fork and Middle Fork rivers. Its drainage basin, on the eastern side of the Front Range Rocky ... moreMountains, is quite substantial covering large parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Together with the North Platte, they form the Platte River that winds through Nebraska and eventually joins the Missouri River. There are three main areas along the South Platte that are known for great trout fishing, each a unique and worthwhile adventure: Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon.

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Cheesman Canyon has the rarified distinction of being ranked as both a Wild trout and a Gold Medal stretch of water. Known for its huge boulders, arid clime and towering Ponderosas, the river is also considered to be one of the most technically difficult tailwater fisheries in the state. It is also known for rewarding anglers with large rainbows (average 14-16 inches and many over 20) and sizeable browns. Throughout the canyon you can expect to find deep pocket water, rifles and small pools. Fishing is possible year round although it is catch and release only.

Open to the public, the Gold Medal Dream Stream runs from the Spinney Mountain Reservoir to Elevenmile Canyon. Famous for it trophy rainbows, cutthroats and browns, the Dream Stream is also known for its Kokanee salmon that arrive during their fall spawning season. Trout weighing 2-3 pounds are commonplace, while larger fish, including monster 20+ inchers, are also possible. Fish here tend to be skilled at avoiding detection and prepared to put up a good fight, humbling even the most experienced anglers. This 3-mile section is strictly catch and release, artificial lures only.

Between the Elevenmile Reservoir and Lake George, the South Platte flows through a gorgeous canyon with riffles, runs and pocket water. Steep canyon walls protect from wind and offer shade during summer months. Largely a rainbow fishery, browns and cutthroats are also here. Most fish measure over a foot long but much bigger fish can be found. The top two, Gold Medal miles of the canyon have the highest concentration of trout; catch and release only here. Public access to the canyon is excellent, and this year-round fishery can be crowded. Miraculously, the fish seem oblivious, easier to catch here than on other parts of the river.
The St. Vrain Creek or St. Vrain river as it is sometimes referred to is still a place where a flyfisher can find solitude. Simply put, it's a small stream fishing paradise. The St. ... moreVrain is a beautifyl creek that holds browns and rainbows in its lower reaches. The upper parts have good poplulations of brook trout and cutthroat trout.

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Three main forks form the St. Vrain Creek. Highway 7 and Old St. Vrain Road follow the South Fork of the St. Vrain
Creek for 10 miles or so. Park and fish along the road. On County Road 96, just off Highway 72 you will find a trailhead for the South Fork which will take you back into the high country.

The Middle St. Vrain Creek rises along the continental divide, west of St. Vrain Mountain. It descends into a canyon to flow along State Highway 7 and past Raymond and joins the shorter South St. Vrain Creek about two miles below Raymond. Access the middle fork from a trailhead in the Peaceful valley.

North St. Vrain Creek rises northeast of St. Vrain Mountain near Allenspark and descends in a canyon to the east along U.S. Highway 36. The two branches join at Lyons, at the mouth of the canyon. Use the trainhead at Wild Basin to take you into the high country of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The St. Vrain is a tributary of the South Platte River.
Game Fish Opportunities:
The Big Thompson is one of Colorado's finest streams. It flows from Forest Canyon Pass through Forest Canyon where it picks up volume as it is fed my numerous mountain creeks. It becomes ... morefishable at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, about six miles below its headwaters. From Moraine Park wade and explore the many braids and channels. Delightful trails up and down river lead to fantastic flyfishing experiences.

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With its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson river just below the town of Estes Park is a classic canyon trout river. This 30-foot-wide trout stream is best described as pocket water and riffles, which makes for great walk-wading fly-fishing. Between Estes Park and Drake the Big Thomson is special regulation water. You'll find wild rainbow trout in the 10-14 inch categories (stocking by the state stopped in 1994) and some brown trout. Below Lake Estes at Estes Park classic tailwater flows are well controlled with fairy stable discharge except for the annual runoff between March and April. From Estes Park the stream flows down to Loveland. The tailwater operates very stable for a dam.

The North Fork Big Thompson River also begins in Rocky Mountain National Park from where it flows along highway 43 east, through the town of Glen Haven and merges with the Big Thompson River in the town of Drake, in the Big Thompson Canyon.

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Trout on the Big Thomson can be fincky and will not just take any dry fly you present. Light leaders, tippets and good presentation is called for. Flies should match the surprisingly large number of insects in the Big Thompson or aproximate what's about to hatch. The Big Thomson flows along the busy highway 34 which can make parking a bit crowded at time. However, this water should be well worth your time. On the Big Thomson it pays to visit with a guide the first few times. Local experts will provide you insight to the local hatch and provide instruction for how to fish the Big Thomson for a most productive experience.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Trips
$
225
-
$
295
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Steep canyon walls and fast and furious pocket water characterize the St. Vrain. The creek is located just outside of Lyons, Colorado just a short and scenic drive from Denver or Boulder. ... moreThe fly fishing is great and so is the scenery! One cannot help but drift back to the days of the old west as you drive through the picturesque clay canyons of the St. Vrain.

The creek is home to lots of opportunistic brown trout and a good sustainable population of rainbow trout. The Vrain is probably best known for the summer time caddis hatch, with blanket hatches of fluttering bugs happening most every evening, making the creek a dry fly fisher’s paradise.

We are also fortunate that the creek tends to stay ice free throughout the year. So don’t let a little snow stop you, winter fly fishing can be fantastic on sunny days in January and February. The midge hatch makes for some great surface action and this is the best winter fly fishing trip close to Boulder.

Another guide favorite, let one of our pro trout hunters show you the secrets of the St. Vrain.
$
135
-
$
290
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
With its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson River just below the town of Estes Park is a classic canyon trout river. The personality of this 30-foot-wide ... moretrout stream is best described as pocket water and riffles.

Because of the diversity of water and abundance of trout, the Big Thompson provides a remarkable walk-wading fly-fishing experience for the never-ever or the well-fished angler. The 10-12 inch rainbow or brown trout will take dry flies or nymphs. Big Thompson River fly fishing is an exerpience that is second to none.
$
275
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$
450
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Addictive Angling Colorado Guide Trips take place on the South Platte River. The South Platte is one of the most well known trout rivers in the United States. The South Platte begins ... morewest of Denver as a small, meandering mountain meadow stream. As the South Platte flows east, it pours into a series of Reservoirs. Starting with Antero Reservoir and flowing into Spinney Reservoir, the Upper South Platte River located in South Park, Colorado, provides anglers with ample opportunities to catch Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Snake River Cutthroats. From Spinney Reservoir the South Platte flows for 5 1/2 miles before it meets Elevenmile Reservoir. This stretch is known as the Dream Stream due to the large trout that call this section of the river home. Below Elevenmile Reservoir the South Platte River flows through Elevenmile Canyon. This beautiful boulder filled canyon offers amazing fly fishing for anglers looking to wet a fly close to Colorado Springs. Eventually, the South Platte flows further downstream into Cheesman Reservoir. Below Cheesman Reservoir exists another beautiful Canyon. Cheesman Canyon Trout are some of the smartest and most beautifully colored fish in Colorado and will test the skill levels of even the most experienced fly fishermen. Downstream of Cheesman Canyon is one of the most popular stretches of the South Platte River. The Deckers area provides easy access and many miles of Public Water fly fishing full of trout eager to take a fly. Below Deckers, the river continues into Strontia Springs Reservoir before it once again flows through yet another beautiful canyon and finds itself flowing into Chatfield Reservoir on the South West Corner of the Denver Metro Area. After the South Platte leaves Chatfield it continues is journey North East until it eventually meets up with the North Platte River. Whatever stretch you decide to fish, the South Platte River offers some of the best fly fishing in the country.
Outfitters
Since 1993, Rocky Mountain Adventures has been helping people have fun. We offer whitewater rafting outings, kayaking classes and fly-fishing classes and guided outings. In addition, ... morewe have a full rental program for those of you wanting to venture on your own. Whether you're an outdoors enthusiast or are a little outdoors timid, we can help you find an experience that's just your speed.

If you're coming to Colorado on vacation, or you live here and are looking for a fun experience for your visiting friends or relatives, an adventure from Rocky Mountain Adventures may be just what you need.

LOCATION

We have four locations to serve you. Our main retail store and offices are located in Fort Collins at the corner of U.S. Highway 287 and Shields Street, just north of Fort Collins. This site is within easy reach of one of our most popular rivers, the Cache la Poudre River. It is from here that we shuttle you to and from your Cache la Poudre rafting trip. If you fish or kayak with us, we often have you assemble here as well.

Here you'll find convenient parking, bathrooms, a place to change into your river clothes, and an opportunity to purchase those last minute items like sunglasses, hats, film and sunscreen. We also have some great t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other casual outdoor wear. You can also meet our Pigeon Express™ pigeons and see how they live in their comfy loft.

Our Fort Collins store is also a full-service paddling shop, complete with several lines of kayaks and associated paddling gear. We specialize in whitewater, touring and lake kayaking. For rafting and kayaking, we stock gear for rent or purchase: life jackets, paddles, wet suits, booties, and helmets. We also carry kayaks, rafts, rescue equipment, dry bags, repair supplies, books and many other items.

We have another office in Estes Park where we meet for many of our fly fishing and lake kayak outings. The Clear Creek trips run out of our Downieville office. Downieville is situated near Idaho Spring which is just 30 minutes west of Denver. The town of Kremmling located within 45 - 55 minutes of Winter Park, Grand Lake and Steamboat Springs is the river office for all of our Colorado trips. The Downieville and Kremmling offices are run under our Mad Adventures company name so don't be confused by the different name.

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.

60 comments
I think I must be president of John's fan club. I have read over and over all of his books I have been able to get, I don't get much time to fish anymore so I fish thru reading John's books. Would love to get to meet hime some day and have the chance to tell him personally how much I enjoyed each and every title.
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[…] I was scouring the internet today looking for some hidden gem of a tying trick, or fly fishing tip and although I didn’t happen across either of those I did stumble upon this post from a few years back on The Trout Underground. It is an interview with one of my favorite authors John Gierach. You could probably guess that since I am always quoting him on my photos. Anyway this is a ... more seriously in depth interview with the man and covers pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about him. If you’re a fan of Gierach’s it is definitely worth a read, and if your not it is still a good read. Check it out here. […]
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Hi Tom, Had the good fortune to meet George Maurer - first at MD fly fishing show, and then at his home in Trexlertown, PA., where my wife and I picked up serial #001 Rockey Mtn Special he said had been sent to John G. for impressions. Sorry that George left us early - but life is something, ain't it? Cheers - Joel
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A whole week spent in Scotland without one, been there, done that, and i'm a resident! Great interview, the old bugger rocks!
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Sorry. I'm not a friend, just an interviewer, so can't do it.
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Any chence you could give up John's email address (privately)? I'm putting together a trout bum trip for myself out west and was looking for "if you ever get out there, don't miss fishing the ___". Flying to ABQ, driving around for two weeks, hopefully not on interstate highways, but from stream to stream.
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Michael Brewick: (The 200R) Ahh.. The 200 R. Long, sleek, sensuous, short gapped the best ''long distant release'' hook ever ! ...or was that a woman I once knew...can't remember
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Thanks so much for posting this. You did an excellent job. I'm not a literary critic or anything, but I've read alot of books in my life and I don't know too many writers that make me think, question, laugh (at least inside) as well keep me entertained...all that and I've learned alot about about fly fishing in the process! I teach music and over the years, I've made many of my students read "The ... more Happy Idiot". I've never read anything that hits the nail on the head in regards to the real learning process in the space of a short essay.
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I don't know. The hook appeared all over his tying book, and I'm having trouble forgiving him.
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(The 200R)
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Hmm. Yes that was a ghastly hook. I can remember many fish lost. It was pretty but I gave it up too. Wonder what JG thinks?
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[...] Click link for full interview…http://troutunderground.com/ [...]
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[...] Fly fishing uber-writer John Gierach has always given the appearance of a reclusive nature, but the last couple years have found interviews popping up like mushrooms (including mine). [...]
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[...] Boulder Creek was the answer to my question. I had spent too much time reading about fly fishing in John Gierach‘s books this week for my mind to go anywhere else [...]
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[...] John Gierach Talks About Trout Bumhood, Life, Fly Fishing's Class Wars, and Extreme Fly Fishing…  Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com hookups@ginkandgasoline.com  [...]
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The conversation that this post has generated has been nearly as good as the post itself. Sorry its taken me a while to get back here. Interested in what you mean exactly by this: "a fair collection of sharp longer pieces would also tend to have some potential value beyond the blog." I assume you are talking about a book, something along the lines of the Alaska Chronicles. That's every bloggers dream, ... more right? I know its mine. I can see your point about writing "your stuff" and I feel the same way to a point, especially because my forays into fly fishing freelance were highlighted by the implied push towards destination pieces, something I no longer have an interest in writing. I find myself torn between the desire to write what I want to write while at the same time not giving all the hard work that goes into that type of writing away for nothing. By the way, very happy to see Gierach specifically mention James Galvin's "The Meadow." That is an incredible book, one of the finest I have ever read.
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Thanks for the reply. Makes sense. Write that long post! Will
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Having read your article and seen the video posted over at the Orvis site you really get a sense that this guy is no BS; what you see is what you get. That's supported four fold by the picture of him in your article -- the uber famous fly fishing writer has the same dull expression that half of us have when holding up a fish for the camera (the other half have the goofy smile).
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There are alot of sheep in the world.
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Will: On his “There was a time when it possible to make a passable living freelancing [articles]. But that's not the case any more.” Did he/do you think this is because (a) we don't value good fishing writing as highly as we did, or (b) there are now so many people trying to get published that the price is simply driven down to uneconomic levels? Or is it a combination of the two – or something ... more else altogether? It's all the above and more. In fact, I could write a pretty long post about the oversupply of writers (across all genres); the unwillngness of magazines (even those dependent on quality stuff) to pay for work; the role of cheap computers and the Internet in all this and a bunch more. Suffice it to say that fly fishing is not a very big industry, and the number of people willing to write cheaply or for free is (to use a technical term) enormous. Plus the magazines (recipients of most of the ad dollars) tend to wallow in a fairly narrow range of story types. Then there's the overall industry trend I can illustrate in my own life; working as a freelance copywriter used to be a pretty good gig, but over the last ten years, the combination of the Internet and search engines and other goodies has collapsed the lower 2/3 of the market, which is one reason why I make more money as a consultant than I do as a writer. There are obviously some very good writers still working in the fly fishing space, but almost all of them make their living elsewhere, or chillingly, are providing the work because they're trying to sell something (I point at the growing number of "travel" pieces about lodges written by an employee of the lodge itself, a heinous practice that magazines embrace, but readers should reject). I tell people that there are ten times as many people working as "copywriters" these days but half as many making a decent living at it (maybe less), and that kind of reality is playing out among editorial writers, photographers -- almost anyone whose work is produced digitally.
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Great interview Tom! On his "There was a time when it possible to make a passable living freelancing [articles]. But that's not the case any more." Did he/do you think this is because (a) we don't value good fishing writing as highly as we did, or (b) there are now so many people trying to get published that the price is simply driven down to uneconomic levels? Or is it a combination of the two - ... more or something else altogether? Thanks again. Will
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Artemus Fish: Wonderful interview, lacking in the guile and self-aggrandizement you associate with so many fly fishing ‘celebrities'. Agreed. It's refreshing.
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Quinn: His essay about the Henry's Fork (The Big Empty River) is something I pull out and read each year to remind myself how bad I suck. "Even Brook Trout Get The Blues" remains a favorite essay of mine, though I suspect that has a lot to do with where you are when you read these things for the first time...
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Some nights when life seems to be a bit overwhelming, a chapter or two from Good Flies, Brook Trout or Lousy Day in Paradise helps put things back into perspective. I might have to disqualify you for mentioning "Good Flies" -- a generally nice book marred by repeated references to the Tiemco 200R hook, the spring-loaded, quick-release model I despise so much...
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Of course they are.
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Wonderful interview, lacking in the guile and self-aggrandizement you associate with so many fly fishing 'celebrities'. Girach doesn't leave me wondering who the man behind the curtain really is, and I'm ready for you to do another interview.
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"Trout Bum". Best "fishing" book I ever read, even though its about so much more than fishing! Thanks Mr. Gierach!
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First, I think the only way blogging really "makes sense" is if you've got something to sell, so all that content generation pulls its own weight. That said, longer pieces are generally more satisfying for the writer (well, this writer), and a fair collection of sharp longer pieces would also tend to have some potential value beyond the blog. And of course, payment comes in different forms, and after ... more having spoken to a couple of fly fishing's better-known writers/bloggers, I'd guess most are doing it for reasons other than money (sanity, improvement, to have a voice, etc). All this skims perilously close to one of those "Why I Blog" posts I seem compelled to write every couple years. I've made a living writing (mostly) the last 25 years, so my perspective is somewhat schizophrenic; at times I'm happy to write "my stuff " for free, yet other times -- especially when I'm sitting awake late at night wondering about a pair of college funds -- I decide it's an utter waste of time. Good luck.
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Joel: Excellent interview. Did you get the sense he was planning some essays or a book on steel heading? Good question; wish I'd asked it. Still, I think he's going to stay the course, though at one point -- after I asked about the high percentage of small stream stuff in "No Shortage..." -- he did say his next book was going to have more travel and more fish. I'd be surprised if he wrote a steelheading ... more book anytime soon, especially since he seems to consider himself a duffer in that respect.
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Wait. What? They're not experts? :P
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Excellent interview. Did you get the sense he was planning some essays or a book on steel heading?
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I think maybe we're talking about the same alternative conclusion. That is, either he really thinks that the people who write those books are experts, or, and this is the alternative I was getting at in my first reply, he's taking a clever and subtle shot at the "experts". Yes, that's it. I'm not shy about offering up this interpretation.
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Great job TC! I really appreciate John's writing style. He captivated me over the years with writing about making coffee, old pick up trucks, tying flies, Canadian whiskey, the grub box, camping, bird watching, dogs, hunting rabbit and grouse, game dinners, and then there's the fishing part. Some nights when life seems to be a bit overwhelming, a chapter or two from Good Flies, Brook Trout or Lousy ... more Day in Paradise helps put things back into perspective.
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T.J.Brayshaw: (Unless, of course, he knows that and his comment was more subtle…) I'd definitely suggest that another conclusion is possible, though I'm not putting words in anyone's mouth.
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I found his comment about not writing a mainstream fishing book because he's not an expert interesting, and frankly, unexpected. I like that he's humble about it, and that's not what surprises me. What surprised me is that it suggests that he actually thinks the people who write the mainstream fishing books ARE experts, instead of just fishermen who decided they should write a book. (Unless, of course, ... more he knows that and his comment was more subtle...)
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Jonny: They are good because they convey “depth” without purveying expertise or conforming to the bogus Jedi wisdom of many how to writers. I liked the way Gierach specifically noted that nasty little outdoor writer's tactic; judging by the delivery -- and how clearly Gierach writes -- it could be a pet peeve of his.
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Kentucky Jim: ...even though I own a bamboo rod, I'm not a purist.P> Jim, all you need is a pure wrist. Fine interview. G's a lucky fellow. Saying was find your bliss and live it. He did, and gets paid. Luckiest man on the water.
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Wonderful insight. I'm a huge fan and have all John's books. He would be on my "most like to meet list". Thanks very much.
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Even with the group blog idea (which you know I agree with, since I ditched my personal blog for a group blog), you're essentially giving 1000+ word pieces away for free. I have a number of longer works that I am holding onto and trying to get paid for. If that fails perhaps they become blog posts at some point down the road, but the time issue and the money issue are intretwined in my opinion.
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Tom Chandler: Gierach's older “Fly Fishing Small Streams” and “Fly Fishing the High Country” books do a good job of combining how-to with his signature conversational style. And most of the time we got sidetracked I simply stopped taking notes, so the digressions would be a product of my memory, rendering them less real than most fiction novels. Ya, I've read these books and they are ... more good (I even liked the Bamboo one, although I don't own a wooden rod). They are good because they convey "depth" without purveying expertise or conforming to the bogus Jedi wisdom of many how to writers. I remember when they asked Paul McCartney "Is love all you need?"; he replied "I'm just a fella". Same deal.
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Very nice Tom. It's cool to think that Gierach really is as down to earth as his writing makes him appear. Thanks for sharing. Ben
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nice interview. Like the no nonsense approach and the candid responses. Season closes here for 5 months in Wisconsin and I am going to to do some more reading than normal this winter. Thanks Len
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Tom, I've been looking forward to this interview since you trailed it a few weeks (?) ago, and I've not been disappointed. Some real spine-tinglers there, because a lot of it is far too close for comfort... at least for this writer. I'd be surprised if you didn't feel the same! Great work, please do keep it up... Theo
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Oh, and by the way, as I told my daughter after she caught a small wild rainbow on a small stream this afternoon, even though I own a bamboo rod, I'm not a purist. I think bigger fish are better than smaller fish, and more fish are better than less fish. That's just how I roll.
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I googled "how to become a trout bum" and it pulled up this....
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Really enjoyed that.
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Great interview, Tom. I love the fact that his quick responses to your questions are as interestingly worded as the paragraphs in his books.
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He may have hit it at the right time, but he's also an extremely talented and skillful writer. His essay about the Henry's Fork (The Big Empty River) is something I pull out and read each year to remind myself how bad I suck.
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[...] Trout Underground has a great interview up right now with the world famous John Gierach. The whole thing is fascinating and you should read it all (go [...]
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Jonny: “To write a mainstream fishing book I'd have to be an expert fisherman, which I'm not.” Bingo. Also liked the comment about McGuane. And: I'd like to read the less relevant digressions. Gierach's older "Fly Fishing Small Streams" and "Fly Fishing the High Country" books do a good job of combining how-to with his signature conversational style. And most of the time we got sidetracked I simply ... more stopped taking notes, so the digressions would be a product of my memory, rendering them less real than most fiction novels.
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It's getting a lot of clicks, so not everybody hates it (seems to work for the New York Times). The only time it seems to be a problem is when a smaller screen is used, and we fixed the "close" bug.
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The Functioning Fishaholics: As a fishing “blogger” I love his points about online writing being too short. I always feel as if people don't want to read longer stories online and I think I'm going to start fighting that urge. Too much good writing is lost because we try to make it easy and quick to digest. A lot of what we post isn't worth many words, but for me, the real 800 pound gorilla ... more is time. A good 900 word post takes exponentially more time than a good 300 word post (and all that time is basically uncompensated). I'd love to write more 1000-word essay posts, but between work, kid, fishing and reading time, I almost never have the couple extra hours it takes to write a first draft of a longer essay (rewrites additional). I keep wondering if a group blog isn't the answer; a couple writers taking turns posting, lightening the load on any single writer -- with longer, better pieces the result.
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"To write a mainstream fishing book I'd have to be an expert fisherman, which I'm not."Bingo. Also liked the comment about McGuane. And: I'd like to read the less relevant digressions. Terribly modest to credit his longevity with mere age. Splendid read, thanks.
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bravo Tom!!! thank you!!!
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"It's not about the body count, and more people should probably fish trout that way. They really should." I wish I could quote the whole article. As a fishing "blogger" I love his points about online writing being too short. I always feel as if people don't want to read longer stories online and I think I'm going to start fighting that urge. Too much good writing is lost because we try to make it ... more easy and quick to digest. Awesome interview, I'm going to have to get some of John's work.
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PS. Is that new pop up window in the bottom right coming from TUnderground? If so, just so you know - it's annoying as hell.
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Disclaimer: If I thought anyone would pay me for what I write, I'd "beware the internet." Sadly, the traditional writing road is one I'm not nearly qualified to travel. The internet, however is a vast world unto itself, where even I hope to someday make enough money to live like Kirk Werner(the deer slayer). I haven't read anything by Mr. Gierach in ages; frankly I'm not a fan of his style - nothing ... more personal. However, this interview was very interesting to me. I've often wondered what becomes of old hippies. LOL? owl
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Well, to make the interview more family friendly I omitted the references to cannibalism, alien abduction and Donald Trump. Still, you're right; he's a certified cranky fly fisherman, but with zero pretension and no more ego than is necessary to be a writer. I keep saying I admire him because he wanted to fish all the time and figured out how to do it.
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Very enjoyable interview, Tom. Thanks. Once, while hanging out at my (then local) fly shop on the river, I chanced to meet a guy who looked like someone you would avoid in a grocery store parking lot. After discussing local fishing conditions for a bit, he asked simply "Well...wanna go fighin'?" I declined. One of the bigger mistakes of my life. The man surely knew how to fish the Kern River, and ... more would have shown me more tricks than I had learned in the 8 years I fished it. He was the genuine article; he was a "trout bum".
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I must say I am not disappointed because your interview reveals nothing surprising about Gierach. He's just a guy doing what he loves and happens to have hit it at the right time. Great interview.
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