A few weeks ago I happened to attend the annual dinner of The Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, a group named in honor of the father of American dry fly-fishing, which meets once a week in Manhattan. The Flyfishers had just published their first book, The Gordon Garland, in a limited edition of 1,500 copies, and though it cost $15 I bought one and had it autographed by contributors because this seemed the polite thing to do.
By inclination I am a bass fisherman, a slob reeking of live bait gone dead in vest pockets, and much of the mystique of the dry fly, while interesting, goes right by me. On the way home after dinner I started leafing through the book and, to be brief, I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. slitting open pages and reading voraciously. The Gordon Garland is superb, and even if your forte is carp on doughballs with a cane pole it is not to be missed. One piece alone, "Who Is Sparse Grey Hackle?" by Alfred W. Miller (who really is Sparse Grey Hackle), is worth the price. It is a marvelously insane thing of whimsy, and it must rank as one of the funniest fish tales ever told. Like most of the pieces, it is an original done especially for the Garland, which was edited, incidentally, by Arnold Gingrich, the publisher of Esquire, who himself contributes a piece on how to turn a wife into an ex-wife by trouting. Among the other name contributors to the book are Roderick Haig-Brown, Paul O'Neil (who shows up with an excellent story about his scramblings on the Esopus), Ed Zern, Lee Wulff and John McDonald.
One of the numerous surprises of the book is that the nonprofessional contributors, so to speak, write just as beguilingly as the pros. Ted Rogowski, a Wall Street lawyer who is president of the Gordon Flyfishers, writes charmingly of fly-tying discussions at the Crackerbarrel Bat and Fishing Fly Factory, a real-life establishment in the cellar below Millie's hair-dressing parlor on Manhattan's East Side, and Joe A. Pisarro, who might be deemed a pro since he is in charge of public relations for the YMCA, describes the perils of taking the family fishing in language that bespeaks hard experience. At the risk of injustice I must, for brevity's sake, omit mention of the other fine contributions, except to note that the lead piece, "American Trout Fishing," is a previously uncollected article by Gordon himself.
Copies of The Gordon Garland are available by mail from The Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Williams Club, 24 East 39 Street, New York City.