No Shortage of God Days

No Shortage of God Days

  • By: Seth Norman
No Shortage of Good Days

By John Gierach
2011; Simon & Schuster
210 pages; hardcover, $24

It’s a tradition for good reason: reviews of new John Gierach collections begin by acknowledging his terrific popularity—a truly iconic status built by fans from scratch, even if Gierach might remind us it was Nick Lyons who first made his scratchings available to us. These tributes are a pleasure to write partly because it’s obvious that “iconic status” isn’t what Gierach is after. If you’re bold enough, or a little deluded, you may try to craft a phrase of praise as clean as those Gierach applies to a Bob White painting, some diner’s excellent blueberry pancake blue-plate breakfast, or an 11-inch cutthroat he seduces from some tricky small stream lie in a moment of golden light. (And if, by chance, such a preamble appears in this magazine, the man at the keys will admit, again, that Gierach has been one of FR&R’s own for decades—an obligatory FYI fair warning that, issued by a person of low morals, might also serve as a boast.)

And then…?

Presuming there’s room, you speak to the new book itself, which isn’t critically important, after all, since it is, after all, “another Gierach.”

There’s the rub, reader. And if you sense an edge of criticism, it’s aimed mainly at a shadow reflected on this old Mac screen, exaggerated a little by the irony that it ends such an overlong, bass-akwards introduction. Still.

There are several excellent reasons fly fishers will buy, enjoy and recommend No Shortage of Good Days. They will expect and find narratives of Gierach’s fishing, varied and various. From these they may pick out, painlessly, expert tips about casts and flies and drifts, larger strategies that will help them discover their own treasured waters, and musings to assist us all to accept, with a little, grace conditions more crowded than anybody likes. The author will add in the odd, exotic trip beyond the reach of most mortals, but so far the author’s never been towed through eternity by a marlin, or resurrected by a brushy stream that turns into the River Styx. More often than not, the greatest appeal is the faith Gierach conveys to the reader that lets each of us think, “I could do this. And what a pleasure it would be to do it with him.”

In itself, that’s plenty. But there’s more. A quality that keeps a Gierach book like Good Days on a shelf nearby.

I found my first example in the author’s lead paragraph—seemed awfully easy—when Gierach distills a mostly inchoate response most of us have experienced, if we’re lucky, a thousand times. And note that it’s just one of a hundred or so that come with the price of admission.

“It’s always good to get home after a long road trip, but it sometimes takes a specific act of will to go home. That’s why the drive back is so often passed in the kind of anticlimactic silence that descends when there’s simply nothing left to say. It’s not that you could—or would—spend the rest of your days standing in cold water swatting deer flies, it’s just that the detritus of daily life has been piling up while you were gone, and by contrast traveling and fishing seem so, you know . . . uncomplicated.”

“Right,” is the word many readers will think as they finish that, though some may settle for a simple sigh or smile. In a paragraph, the author has captured one of angling’s “ordinary” moments, in words that make it immediate, personal, and part of a larger, shared experience. Sit with this sketch a minute and you may find yourself adding details: the faint stink of fish slime and sweat; a shoulder that always aches from the strain of a suspender; the soft colors of dashboard lights as you glance again at an odometer unreeling; and maybe that comfortable weight of quiet companions you know are also staring down a road narrowing toward real life.

Seth Norman lives in Bellingham, Washington, where he toils with smallmouth bass, an occasional steelhead, and mounds of new fly-fishing books, from which he selects and details the best.