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
Alone

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.

This Year's Fly

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White
Into the Light

The best motel in Basalt, Colorado is the Green Drake. It’s clean, plain, not too expensive and you can guess from the name that fishermen are welcome. The resident dog is named Baxter. He’s a hundred-pound yellow Lab, and a friendly and sudden leaner. You quickly learn that when you stop to pet him you have to throw a leg out and brace so he doesn’t knock you over.

You’d have to describe the place as nice and homey, but it hasn’t entirely escaped the gentrification that’s occurred in the 25 years since Basalt was a workingman’s alternative to nearby Aspen. In almost any other town in the West, this establishment would be called “The Green Drake Motel,” but here it’s “The Green Drake: A Motel.”

New Water

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White
New Water

Like most of the trout streams in my life, I first saw this one from the window of a moving car. We were at right angles to each other at a narrow bridge, going our separate ways. It was just a sidelong glance: not much more than a fisherman at the wheel registering flowing water.

Farther along, the road turned to roughly parallel the stream and there were longer glimpses and then full views. In this stretch it was mostly riffles with uniform cobble bottoms, and darker slots at the bends where fish would hold. I followed it downstream as it took on feeders with unremarkable names like Willow, Spruce, Moose, Buck, Bear and Boulder creeks and grew from a creek itself to a good-size stream and finally to a proper little river.

Lodges

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White
Promise of the coming day.

As businesses, fishing lodges are rarely big money makers, and there’s a surprising mortality rate. The editor of a sporting magazine once told me it’s not all that unusual for him to assign a destination story on a lodge, only to have the place close before the article runs. Think about it: You’re operating what amounts to a hotel, a restaurant, a guide service, a travel agency, a small airline, a modest navy and sometime medical evacuation unit, and you have to make your nut in a season that can be as short as eight or 10 weeks.