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I've Never Met an Idiot on the River
When I first took note of Mr. Winkler's book, it was on amazon.com, in a search for fly fishing books. I did a double-take as I didn't expect to see a book by an American TV sitcom icon on fly fishing. But in recollection, I did remember hearing something about the book coming out several months before its release.
Henry Winkler is best known via TV as Fonzie on the popular American 70's sitcom Happy Days.
His path from the 1970's sitcom world has led to several charitable activities, various TV drama show appearances and theatre performances. He has two Golden Globes and five Emmy nominations to his credit. His path from the uber-cool motorcycle riding Fonzie in the TV world has transformed into a pure family man with an amped passion for flyfishing in his off-TV life.
Through his newest book, I've Never Met an Idiot on the River, Winkler accounts about his life with the love of his life, Stacey, mistakes made in life, raising children and of course fly fishing. At first, I read other reviews of the book and became skeptical of how one could mix all those topics into an interesting fly fishing read, but after reading the book, it becomes clear how these topics, all dear to Winkler, are blended together and printed on paper. The book is a quick and joyful read that leaves you feeling like you're just like a TV star - at least in a few very important habits of life.
The book starts out with a very illuminating chapter written by wife, Stacey. Stacey clearly aligns the reader's expectation before continuing on within the book. Speaking of Winkler's near obsessive-compulsive-competitive-addicted nature towards fly fishing "Try as I might, I can't explain this strange behavior. But that is my Henry and it's the world you are about to enter - it's always a pleasure to be with Henry, even when he is an absolute maniac on the water." With the end of the first chapter, I thought to myself - man, I can relate. I know hundreds of fly fishers who are just as "maniac" about their hobby as is Winkler. He isn't an different than anyone else consumed in the sport.
Throughout the book, Winkler shares some memories of insecurities in life, embarrassing moments and of course, some of the most memorable fly fishing trips in Montana, his favorite fly fishing venue. The book, typeset in larger-than-normal print is a scant 140+ pages and includes some of Winkler's favorite photos of family, acting, Montana scenery and a prized catch on the ironically named Henry's Fork of the Snake River - an impressive 24", 5-pound brown trout.
It's clear throughout the book that Winkler is borderline compulsive about his preparation about each and every fly fishing trip. He lends a glimpse of what it would be like to fish with him by saying he's competitive and completely focused on catching every fish he can on his drifts of the river. He can remember every fish he ever caught - and where - and what he caught it on. Don't fish his hole. Don't mess with him as he casts. Observe all proper fly fishing etiquette as you fish with or near Winkler. He'll make no waste in time to let you know you are ruining a potential fish-holding stretch. Despite the apparent ogre-like demeanor of a fly fishing Winkler, in retrospect, this is not unlike any of my friends or even me at times. At the level Winkler consumes fly fishing, it is a passion beyond words. Only a passion that you and I may get, but if you aren't a fly fisher, you wouldn't get it. For this reason, the book isn't written for everyone. It's written for those who "get" the passion. If you get "it", you will find this book a delightful rapid read leaving you reminisce about your own life, family, career and fly fishing. If you don't get "it", you may find the book a random collection of thoughts and topics Winkler has written about, in chapter form.
Since I get "it", It IS all tied together, as Winkler has proven. It's a book I'll read again in a few years, partly because it's a quick read, and partly because there are small trinkets of wisdom from the Winkler household that apply to mine. Despite the complicated nature of weaving life together with fly fishing, a caption under a picture of him with a nice Idaho brown trout simplifies why we fly fish - "When you're back in the city sitting in traffic, remember how happy you can be."