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Fish tales and some 'Dumb Luck'

“Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers” by John Gierach (Simon and Schuster, 225 pages, in stores Tuesday)

All of us who fish have fish stories, but no one tells a fish story quite like John Gierach. The Colorado resident and writer has filled more than 20 books with fish stories, all of them about his fly-fishing adventures around the world. His latest, “Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers,” will be in bookstores on Tuesday.

In his new book, Gierach regales us with tales of encounters with muskies in Wisconsin, rising trout in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and bluegills and rednecks in Colorado, among many other chapters. In my last example, the bluegills are fish and the rednecks are people, by the way. He also has a chapter about fishing dogs, or fishing with dogs.

This is why I, and many others, love Gierach’s books so much. Yeah, it’s helpful to understand the fly fishing language when reading Gierach, but even if you don’t know what a Blue-wing Olive hatch is or a Frying Pan Green Drake fly, his books are a joy to read.

He writes so vividly and with such detail about his experiences that you don’t have to be a fly fisherman to enjoy his books. I was trying to make this point to my friend, Ed, just the other day. Ed is an avid reader, but not a fisherman.

Before the stay at home orders, we would meet once a week for breakfast at the local Jimmy’s Egg or Waffle House to discuss the world’s problems over coffee. Since we both share the same name, his favorite joke is to introduce ourselves to the waiter or waitresses, pronouncing that “two Eds are better than one,” and erupt in laughter.

We would always be the ones laughing. The reaction from the wait staff is normally a polite grin and chuckle, most likely because they are wanting a generous tip, not because they find two old men funny.

Now that we are quarantined, we have to do our complaining to each other about what is wrong with the world over the phone.

When he called last week to ask me what I was doing, I told him I was reading Gierach’s latest book for a review. Ed, of course, had never heard of Gierach. When I explained he was a fly fisherman and author, Ed scoffed at such foolishness. He couldn’t imagine anything more boring to read than a book about fishing.

That got my dander up, seeing how I write an outdoors column for The Oklahoman. I told him Gierach’s books were great and how they are not how-to-fish manuals, but stories about the colorful characters he meets and the interesting places where he casts a line.

Gierach writes with such wit and humor that I think even Ed would like his books, although it’s doubtful he would admit it. In “Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers,” Gierach even has a chapter about taking his periodontist fishing.

Perhaps Ed and I could go fishing with Gierach someday. I think that would make a great fish story. I bet the title of the chapter would be “Two Eds Are Not Better Than One.”

— Ed Godfrey, Outdoors editor

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›