Early in his latest book, Tom Reed is fishing the Greys River in Wyoming with Chris Hunt, who lands two wild Snake River cutthroat trout, then turns to Tom and says: “I love blue-lining.” “Blue-lining?” (Reed) asked. “You know, fishing those blue lines on a map, those thin blue lines.”
Chris, like me is a small-stream guy, a guy who would rather be on a creek somewhere in the forest, far away from trails and people, than on the glorious Madison in a drift boat surrounded by rising brown trout. When he gets to new country, he pulls out a Forest Service map and finds those lines of blue. They start in the far-back country and cascade through canyon and chasm. A few have trails, but if you walk far enough from your vehicle, if you push into the depths and move those muscles, you will put people behind you and find trout ahead. Then there are the blue lines that have no trails–where a fisherman bent upon catching must stumble and slip through thick timber, or scramble down rough canyons, or thrash like a wallowed Hereford through patches of willow.
I’m lucky enough to have gone blue-lining with both Mr. Hunt and Mr. Reed…even fished the Grey’s River with them. Those are some of my favorite fishing memories. And Blue Lines (Riverbend Publishing) is one of my favorite collections of fly-fishing stories ever. Reed is very honest and vividly descriptive with his words, without ever being preachy or contrived. The art of fine fly fishing essay writing is elusive… seldom practiced with effect…almost like the fishing art of blue-lining itself.
Few have the guts (or the chops) to go there…but those who can and do can’t imagine themselves anywhere else. In chapters like “The Day I Was Trendy,” “Worm Dancing,” and “We Grow Old Because We Stop Hiking,” Reed’s sharply-honed, witty writing is rooted in substance that cannot be manufactured any way other than by rolling hard miles in the backcountry. And in my opinion, that’s the kind of work, and fly fishing experience, that’s most closely connected to the true spirit of this sport. It’s the kind of stuff we could all use a little more often.
Do check it out…it’s the perfect read to get you fired up about the fishing season ahead.