Tuesday, December 6, 2011

River Pimp: A Book Review

"If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him." -- Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

If they weren't born in different eras Eric Stroup and John Maclean (Norman's father) would have been great friends. They share a strong faith in God and know that to step into a flowing trout stream is to restore and refill one's soul. They also believe that fly fishing is not to be trifled with. It is serious business, deserves our respect and, most importantly, is worth preserving for future generations.

As Ed Engle writes in his introduction to Eric's new book, River Pimp, A Journey Through Life in the Fly Fishing Industry, "Fly fishing saves Eric time and again. Now he understands that we all may have to save fly fishing."

River Pimp is the first fly fishing book I've ever read about the business side of fly fishing. We've all experienced the fishing business as customers. I've even been a customer of Eric's -- he guided me on Penns Creek two years ago and excused my failures by assuring me that Penns is the "major leagues of fly fishing." (The picture below proves I at least fouled off a few pitches during my day in the big leagues.) But I've rarely given much thought to the business of fly fishing. Eric has, and he writes about it with great passion and power.

He shares the downside of trying to tell it like it is. A very informative article he wrote for Fly Fisherman magazine (he is kind and never identifies the publication) about his home river, the Little Juniata, spawned enough venom and hatred to start a small skirmish. The conflict earned Eric the nickname that he made the title of his book. And I think it tells a lot about Eric and his wife Tracey that they embraced the name. Eric won't back down from his beliefs.

You should read the River Pimp if you've ever wondered what the guide was really thinking as he watched you put down the umpteenth fish with another errant cast. You'll enjoy the River Pimp if you've ever fantasized about chucking it all and "fishing for a living." (If you're like me, you'll laugh at the stories and acknowledge that you're not nearly tough enough to survive what Eric's been through.) And you should definitely read the book if you care about the future of our woods, our rivers and our trout. Eric makes a compelling case that how we shop and who we shop with will dictate the future of fly fishing. Shop your local fly shop; don't buy discounted stuff online. And definitely don't buy from the big box stores. Buy flies tied by people who fish the rivers you fish. And hire a full-time guide.

If you do all those things you will definitely spend a little more money, but what you'll gain is priceless. You will support those who are doing the most to protect, preserve and enhance the sport, culture and passion we care about so much.

River Pimp is Eric's second book. The first, Common-Sense Fly Fishing, is a great help to anyone looking to catch more fish on the river. River Pimp won't help you catch any more fish, but it will give you a new appreciation for the business-side of fly fishing. One note, you may have to wait a few weeks to get a copy of River Pimp. A second printing is being done to take care of some editing issues in the first edition. It's worth the wait. Add River Pimp to the list of books to read while waiting for the next hatch.

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