Thursday, February 25, 2010

Old Men Write

Browsing through a local antique store, hunting for vintage bamboo fly rods, I stumbled upon a nice collection of fly fishing and history books. As I rummaged through the stacks I discovered a rare 1st edition of John Gierach’s; Fly Fishing the High Country. Thinking aloud, I said; “Nice find!” My excitement was responded to by an older couple passing by with a chuckle and smile.

Digging deeper into the stacks a few more books caught my attention, but, none more so than a simple hard covered text entitled; Where the Pools are Bright and Deep written by Dana S. Lamb.

The book’s dust cover illustration is a pencil sketch of mayflies laying eggs in a stream. Pencil sketches have their own beauty if done correctly and by accomplished artists, the minimal medium of pencil, I liked the idea. Further interesting me was the nice dark coffee cup stain, a sure sign someone had enjoyed the book enough to read it in the morning, which is the best time to read. I purchased the book, which turned out to be another 1st edition. Lucky me.

Published in 1973, when Lamb was 73 years old, the stories are all 2-3 pages long, not stories really, but, observations, memories and thoughts. As I began to read I could not help but think the author was writing; “good bad Hemingway."  I was mistaken and decided the writing stood on its own. Similar to Hemingway, the writing is clearly distinctive and pleasant to read.

Many of the brief chapters have Lamb retelling adventures, thoughts and observations he had while fly fishing or partridge hunting at a younger age, 20, 30 and 40 years earlier. Soon these reminisces become sad reflections of how he is older, and now the streams seem deeper and faster. The partridge smarter and quicker, hills steeper and harder to climb.

Lamb often lies awake at night, unable to sleep, listening to the seasonal sounds outside his window. Spring and summer days on-stream dominate these late night memories and these are the pages of the book which truly impact the reader.

I tried to locate information on-line about Mr. Dana S. Lamb, author, fly fisherman. Not much is written about the man, most finds are related to his books. One chat board mentioned Mr. Lamb died in 1985, “after a long illness.” Maybe he was sick during the years he wrote the book and in 1973 when it was published? 12 years is a long time to be sick, so I doubt this to be the case. Nonetheless, it might explain the sadness found throughout the text.

Old men write. And I picture this old man, sitting stream-side watching Brook Trout, content on watching them, and not worried about catching them. I have done that many times, sat and watched and listened to the stream as it flowed to the sea. Content with just being there.


  1. Old men do write. They also read. They begin to borrow adventure where they can and relive their glory. They write about their life to perhaps preserve what seems important.

  2. And we are thankful and much better for "old men" who do write.