Glory Days

Glory Days

My spring, 1979 semester at the University of Arizona was like a country song: filled with little but hard work, heartache and hangovers, and I couldn't

  • By: Paul Guernsey
My spring, 1979 semester at the University of Arizona was like a country song: filled with little but hard work, heartache and hangovers, and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of Tucson. Almost as soon as I'd finished my last final exam, I packed my pickup truck and headed for Alaska.

Along the way I stopped in Clinton, Montana, to visit "Uncle Dick," a relative of some relatives and an old bachelor whom I had met only once. Uncle Dick did not seem exactly delighted to see me. But after he'd gone to work that first morning, I peeked into his refrigerator and spotted a couple of cans of Miller High Life. When he came home that night, he found his entire fridge stocked with the Champagne of Beers, and we were fast friends from then on.

I spent the next week worm-dunking in paradise. The Clark Fork was high with runoff, so I fished tiny mountain streams and caught trout larger and more colorful than I ever had before. After a couple of days I started to feel a little better about things, and I began to compare myself to Nick Adams, the hero of Hemingway's Big, Two-Hearted River, who bait-fishes his way back to emotional health. To my overly romantic mind there was little difference between the wounds of war and the kind inflicted by college girls.

The fine worm fishing abruptly ended under circumstances that I found both mysterious and infuriating: One afternoon, millions of "tiny brown moths" appeared all over the stream, and suddenly the trout would no longer look at a worm. You might say that this experience comprised the beginning of my fly-fishing education.

It took me a total of seven days' driving to reach Anchorage. My goal had been a reporting internship at one of the Anchorage daily newspapers; where I ended up was at the tail end of a slime-line in a Kenai salmon cannery. It was such an adventure I didn't even care.

At around that same time, way back East in Manchester, Vermont, John Merwin and Kit Parker had just undertaken a great adventure of their own. John, who had been managing editor of Fly Fisherman Magazine, and Kit, that publication's circulation director, had launched Rod&Reel, a brand-new fishing magazine that Merwin called "An experiment in the outdoor publishing field, "one that would not shy from "criticism, review…[and even] gossip."

Not only did this fragile experiment survive and grow, but its history has been a remarkably stable one. Through a full quarter-century, not only has it never missed publishing an issue, but it has had only two owners-the current one since 1983-and, including me, four editors. The magazine has also remained remarkably true to Merwin's original intention of providing an outdoor alternative-a little entertainment, some nourishing food for thought, and a lot of solid, useful information-to readers fed up with traditional hook-and-bullet fare. Oh, and Kit is our current publisher, and my boss.

I started working here on Halloween, 1994, and became editor three years ago. Now the (Fly) Rod&Reel adventure is my adventure, and I couldn't think of a more exciting one, or anywhere else I'd rather be. This is my dream job.

Thanks, John. Thanks, Kit. Thank you, Down East Enterprise. And thanks most of all to you, FR&R's readers, for making such a success of this quirky, fish-happy publication.

Now, imagine that I'm raising a glass here, just as my friend John Gierach is doing on page one of this issue: Friends, here's to the next 25 years. I don't know where I-or you, or even Fly Rod&Reel-will be by the spring of 2029. But I do know we'll have a lot of fun, and some good fishing, along the way.