Like many participants in fast-growing outdoor sports, Gierach has mixed feelings about the increasingly crowded conditions he finds on the rivers he fishes. “Flyfishing has been very good to me and I make a decent living from it,” he says. “But it’s just too big and commercial. Back in the ’60s and ’70s it had this sort of cool, underground, Bohemian feel to it. And I miss that.”
Gierach addresses this issue, however, through a longtime love of hiking to high lakes and headwaters where other anglers are unwilling to go. He has never been much of a big fish guy and in 40 years of angling he’s never caught a fish over 20 pounds. He prefers not just fishing for trout, but also generally fishing for them close to home, on small streams.
“There’s so much good fishing, I just don’t see spending all that money to go someplace really exotic.” His name alone, and the publications he writes for, would get Gierach access to any fishing lodge on earth. Yet he will choose a local road trip first, at least in part because he rather prefers roughing it. One of his great lines from the 1996 title, Another Lousy Day in Paradise, in a chapter called “Travel,” reads: If nothing else, a road trip amounts to several days of running conversation with friends, and since good conversation is so hard to come by these days, that in itself, is worth the effort. Amen.
It is this desire for intimate knowledge of a river, his drive to really know a place, that has limited his saltwater experience. He’s been to Islamorada but came away with his feelings for trout in tact.
“I wasn’t terribly impressed,” he says. “I think if I were really interested then the thing to do would be to move there, work for an outfitter or something and really learn what’s going on.”
Though he has written instructional-type books (Flyfishing Small Streams, Flyfishing the High Country, Fishing Bamboo), Gierach has made his name and his career with the folksy, me-and-Joe stories collected in his many other books, including Sex, Death, and Flyfishing, now in its 20th printing, and the cult classic, Trout Bum, which he wrote in 1985. It is on these pages that Gierach shows his true colors as a down-to-earth guy, preferring the company of a couple good friends to the posturing of a large industry gathering. And though he’s been friends with Colorado’s great tailwater fisherman Ed Engle for even longer, nobody has appeared in more of his stories than A.K. Best.
“Somebody asked me once who was the better fisherman between the two of us,” Geirach recalls. “And though it really depends on the day, I can say that A.K. is certainly more persistent. He’ll get on a ten-inch fish and just spend hours. He’s relentless.”