By Thomas R. Pero
With a Cast of Addicted Anglers and Fishing Widows
Illustrations by Whitney Martin
Do you or someone you know have a tragicomic story of a relationship that has miraculously survived—or resembles a romantic train wreck—because of one person’s obsessive devotion to a sport, hobby or other passion? You are not alone.
Till Death or Fly Fishing Do Us Part (Wild River Press) is a new collection of hilarious essays as much about the ancient pratfalls of the human condition as to whether men prefer blondes or brown trout.
These eight stories of how an obsession with fly fishing has affected—for better or worse—numerous romantic relationships are true, although an interesting note appearing in the first few pages from the publisher admits that some names have been changed, “to protect the innocent from embarrassment and the publisher from the guilty and their junkyard-dog lawyers.” At turns wickedly funny and then sobering and poignant, anyone who has been through the furious struggle of balancing time with, and away from, the love of your life will devour this book with relish.
“We joke about compulsions, but the term ‘fishing widow’ says it all,” writes Georgene S. Dreishpoon of Boynton Beach, Florida, whose young obstetrician husband demonstrated early in their marriage that his trout-fishing weekends in the Catskills took precedence over just about everything. “I felt I could have competed with another woman, but how do you compete with a fish?”
“I’ll look over at Josh any time we drive near a body of water and I’ll notice his eyes drift away from the road. He’s trying to figure out: A) what the possibility is that there are fish in that water, and B) the severity of the fit I’ll throw if he stops to find out,” writes Alysse E. Hollis, an attorney from Cincinnati.
“There have been times I’ve come really, really close to piling all the fly rods, chicken necks and fishing books in the front yard and torching them,” writes Jennifer Axtell, a school librarian from Bevard, North Carolina. On their second date, Nathaniel, a fishing guide, took her on a backpacking trip for brook trout in the Shenandoah Mountains. To save weight he left the tent’s rain fly at home. She woke sloshing around in a soaked sleeping bag while he snoozed away comfortably in dry waders: “I should have run for the car and never looked back; instead, we got engaged.”
“However you slice it, it’s an uneasy truce. Fishing is a greedy mistress. Fishing takes time. And money,” writes Seattle’s Thomas R. Pero, the award-winning editor of Trout Magazine during the 1980s and ’90s and then founding editor of Fish & Fly Magazine. “Either the bathroom gets a new designer sink or you are in seat 8A on a Lan Chile flight to Argentina for some dry-fly fishing in February. Survival tip: Don’t plan your trip for Valentine’s week.”
In compiling the entertaining volume, Pero says he asked four bright, articulate women and three hopelessly addicted male anglers to offer their distinct perspectives on the subject of the fishing passion. He promised nothing would be censored—and then added a long and rollicking final essay drawn from his own life experiences and the many close-up and painful disasters he’s watched unfold. “Scandalous? Some might think so,” he says with an amused grin. “I rather like scintillating—you can’t make up this stuff. I dare you.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nationally known fly-fishing writer, editor and publisher Tom Pero was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and grew up in nearby Taunton. At 18 he became the youngest chapter president in Trout Unlimited (TU) history when he started the Southeastern Massachusetts Chapter. During the 1970s his early writing helped focus attention on the neglected salter brook trout fishery and the developing sea-run brown trout fishery on the Cape.
In 1977, at age 23, Pero was named the first full-time editor of Trout Magazine, the national publication of TU. He used his 16 years at Trout to make the magazine exciting and influential. Twice it was named Conservation Magazine of the Year, beating out magazines with substantially larger circulations and reputations such as Audubon and Sierra. He introduced the legendary trout biologist, Robert Behnke, to readers of Trout in a popular column. In recent years he founded the magazines Wild Steelhead & Salmon and Fish & Fly, both of which also won critical acclaim for excellence in journalism and graphics.
Pero moved from New England to the West Coast in 1984 and now lives outside Seattle.
During the last three decades nearly all the famous fly-fishing writers have written for Tom Pero’s publications—including Thomas McGuane, Nick Lyons, Lefty Kreh, Dave Whitlock, Lee Wulff, Joan Wulff, Datus Proper, Ernest Schwiebert, Art Lee, Paul Schullery, John Gierach and others. Once, when working on a story about Atlantic salmon restoration during the 1980s, he approached Red Sox great Ted Williams on the banks of the Miramichi River in New Brunswick for a quote. The notoriously gruff Williams said, “I don’t like writers.” “I know,” replied Pero, “but I fish.” He got the interview. Pero’s lengthy talk with the reclusive Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate of England and an avid angler, caused a sensation in the British and European press when published just after Hughes’s death in 1998.