Fred Thomas Illustration on Gierach’s Book Cover

John Gierach is somewhat of a hero to me. I started reading him with his first book of essays, Trout Bum, and that kind of led me on a path to fly fishing as a way of life. I’m not close to Gierach but I do feel honored to get the first peak at his essays, when I edit them for inclusion in Fly Rod & Reel. I have met John a few times and he’s as sharp and witty as you’d expect; while eating lunch together one time in Missoula a woman chimed, “Are you two related? Father and son?
I said, “No, not at all.” Gierach said, “In spirit only.” And I was impressed.

Anyway, you can’t go wrong reading Gierach. He gets it. He’s been there. He doesn’t have a lot to prove to himself. He likes the outdoors, loves to fish, inspects the path of his life through fishing and then shares that with us in a much more articulate way than we could. I’ve heard some people say that Gierach’s words are “tired” and that we need more fresh voices in fly fishing. But I couldn’t disagree more. We need more voices like Gierach’s, voices that don’t dawdle, that tell a story from beginning to end, and along the way make us all smarter and more introspective. Not just on fishing. On life.

I’m proud to say that my father, the wildlife artist Fred Thomas, provided the cover illustration for Gierach’s most recent book, All Fishermen Are Liars. I’m biassed, of course, but I think my father’s work is the best in the business; his paintings aren’t one dimensional cardboard cutouts, they’re three dimensional, and often so real you feel like you might be able to reach between the frame and yard out a big rainbow or brown with your hands. His paintings have depth. You can see his work in places outside of fly fishing, too. Just look at the tail of Alaska Airlines and you’ll see his smiling eskimo. Cut up some Tillamook cheese for next weekend’s football games and you can say you know the artist who drew the famous sailing ship logo. You can see more of his work at And, as always, you can see Gierach’s work, first, in the pages of Fly Rod & Reel.

Here’s one more of Thomas’ paintings to look at. One of my favorites, titled Plenty For All.


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