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At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman

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There has been a sort of dry spell for Gierach fans. Although he has steadily produced new material-an uneven Standing in a River Waving a Stick; an ode to bamboo rods, Fishing Bamboo; and regular columns in Fly Rod & Reel-those efforts have fallen short of the heights of storytelling that he reached with Trout Bum and The View from Rat Lake. His latest marks a return to form, his consistently best storytelling and writing to date. The memorable real-life characters of his previous books return as Gierach fishes with Mike Clark, Ed Engle, and A.K. Best, as well as some new characters, including one known only as "the guy." The narrative takes the reader through the fishing year from early spring to New Year's Eve, and many readers will no doubt immediately return to the beginning for another season. As a bonus, the sketches by Glenn Wolff add whimsically to Gierach's tales. Essential for libraries with flyfishing collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Jeff Grossman, Milwaukee Area Technical Coll. Libs., Oak Creek Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

These 20 magazine columns-most from Field & Stream-follow Gierach's year of outings in Northern Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, and include some of his best strokes of style since Sex, Death and Flyfishing. Each travelogue plucks the required notes of Gierach's angling country song formula: a conversational, self-deprecating voice; good-humored reporting from the Eden streams of the West, appreciation for his local angling fraternity. Fishing-is-the-antidote-to-real-life is the axis of every Gierach collection, and several of these stories are convincing as well as entertaining. The angling reader already understands perfectly well the real reason Gierach is perched on the back of an ATV with a Labrador retriever riding through heavy May mud to reach remote ranchland ponds. As Gierach gets older, his reach into his angling hat is slower but he pulls out better rabbits: "If you wanted a fish that could sip white wine and discuss Italian poetry, you'd look for a trout. If you need a ditch dug, you'd hire a carp." The title reference is to a streamside marker dedicated to a deceased conservationist that Gierach seems to acknowledge is the epitaph for anyone who, like himself, spends his life in the thrall of something as gloriously inconsequential as fly-fishing. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Carl Hiaasen The next best thing to fly-fishing is reading John Gierach's essays about it. Joe Guidry The Tampa Tribune [Gierach's] evocative prose and humorous, often bittersweet insights will appeal even to those who don't know a nymph from an earthworm.

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