Published Nov 12. 2002 - 19 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 13. 2015

Book review: Becoming a Fly Fisher - From Brookie Days to The Tenth Level

John Randolph
The Lyons Press
Publishing year: 
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If you want to know who's who and where's where, John Randolph is the guy to learn from. If there's anyone he hasn't fished with, and anywhere he hasn't fished, I'd be mighty surprised. But can he write?

Yeah, he can write. Quite well, as a matter of fact.

And the names - of course he knows everyone and has fished everywhere. Heck - if I was editor/publisher for a major fly fishing magazine, I'd make damn well sure a good portion of my job description says "Fish everywhere with everyone as often as physically possible". If he wrote a book about fly fishing and didn't drop these names, how disappointed would we be? I mean - yeah - I'm sure John Randolph is a great fisherman - but how cool is Lefty? What's it like in Labrador? How wild is the Amazon? No offense to Mr. Randolph - but want to hear about all that other cool stuff.

Lucky for us - he obliges our thirst for voyeuristic thrills - and more. Becoming a Fly Fisher is like a massive brain dump from a man who 's lived and breath fly fishing for most of his life.

He tells of great hatches. The beatis on Clark Fork of the Snake with Gary LaFontaine. Fishing for chironomids with Lance and Randall Kaufmann on a high desert lake in Oregon. Hoppers on a Montana spring creek.

He tells of great places. Trout rivers such as The Big Hole and Letort Spring Run. A salmon book called Devil's Gap in Labrador. Ocean flats for tarpon. Heck - even the Amazon River. I mean - this is a guy who, planning a trip to Labrador, called of Lee Wulff to get some advice. In case it is not obvious yet - this guy has not lived a normal life. How lucky are we that he decided to share some of it with us?

He tells of great people - The Mentors. Some I know of - Lee Wulff, George Harvey, Lefty Kreh, but others are new names to me - Bill Schaadt, Jeff Blood. Of some anglers, he talks of reaching The Tenth Level - the "state of mind, emotional tranquility in the knowledge and skills of the art and the ability to enter the stream spiritually". Of those anglers who have achieved this plateau he speaks glowingly.

How cool is all that? I mean - think about it. Reading this book is as close to sitting down with John and chatting for hours about anglers he has known, books he has read, flies he likes, and places he has gone. Who wouldn't want a chance to do that? With Becoming a Fly Fisher, John invites us in and gives us a glimpse of what his life has been like.

I can only imagine what a daunting task this book must have been. Having "been there" and "done that", and seen it all written about in his magazine, I would guess it would be difficult to find a voice that hasn't been heard hundreds of times before. Not so, however. He is in the unique position to give us insights into anglers and places that few others can.

Unfortunately, any book such as this is going to suffer through a series of "what abouts". What about The Delaware? What about Oliver Edwards? It would be impossible for Mr. Randolph to discuss every destination and every angling personality. I'm glad he wasn't afraid to suffer the "what abouts" and maybe even an offended person or two - wasn't afraid to be labelled a "name dropper". I, for one, am glad he wanted to share with us some of what he has done, where he has been, and what he likes. If nothing else, it sure makes for a good read when we're not actual "being there" and "doing that" ourselves.


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