Sporting Life

  • By: John Gierach
  • Photography by: John Gierach
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The first Chinook salmon I caught here was a 25-pound buck. He made several long runs and spent quite a while bulldogging before I got him in the shallows where I could slip out of the boat onto firm bottom to land him. A moment comes while playing a big fish when things begin to turn in your favor, but even then there’s only one way it can go right and dozens of ways it can go wrong, all of which will be your fault. So when he was finally in the net, I felt more relief than triumph.

Sporting Life

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White
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“I have fished for them,” I answered, carefully not claiming to be the consultant who could properly evaluate this fishery from a business perspective, but not exactly denying it, either.

Coasters

  • By: John Gierach
  • Photography by: Bob White
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I came to know about Michigan’s upper peninsula through the writing of Ernest Hemingway, John Voelker (a.k.a. Robert Traver) and, later, Jim Harrison and others. It may be a coincidence that many of the writers I like have a connection to this northernmost landmass of Michigan that, until the completion of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957, was so isolated it could only be reached from the rest of the state by boat.

Or maybe it’s just that the region naturally produces stories filled with tea-colored trout streams, beaver ponds hidden in swamps, and small towns where rules are gracefully bent by those with the right intentions. Whatever the reason, the UP is enshrined alongside the Serengeti, the Yukon Territory and Paris as a place made romantic by virtue of appearing in books. Which is to say, I am an innocent victim of literature.

Sporting Life

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White
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I was northbound on State Highway 63 in eastern Wisconsin, nearing the end of the long drive from Colorado in a peculiar state of mind. If you’ve never experienced one, it’s impossible to describe the quality of road trance these solitary drives can induce. Suffice it to say that after thinking things over for 1,100 miles, I’d arrived at the inescapable conclusion that at the right distance and in a certain light, a mature cottonwood tree looks like an enormous head of broccoli.

Deep Freezes and Desperation

  • By: John Gierach
  • Photography by: Bob White
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There can be dead spells in the sporting life. Sometimes they seem TO build from an innocent catastrophe that, in hindsight, looks like a precipitating event. For instance, I’ve just finished writing a book and am getting ready for a late-winter steelhead trip to the West Coast. I’m a little burned out and this is just what I need: a long stretch of time away from the desk, stepping and casting with a Spey rod. This isn’t mindless fishing as some claim (a friend who says it could be done just as well by a zombie is wrong), but it’s true that it doesn’t demand a lot of deep thinking.