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Trout Bum John Gierach

SOON AFTER I WAS out of diapers dad and I took bamboo poles and bobbers to the local sand quarry to hook hungry blue gills on pieces of night crawler (a whole night crawler was bigger than the fish). Throughout my teenage years I continued to fish with dad and various friends for the catfish, bass, sunfish and bluegills in the ponds and rivers of the mid-west.

In 1966 I moved to Boulder. Everything in Boulder was different from what I’d left in Illinois. But the subject of this story is fishing so suffice it to say I gave up bait fishing and took up fly fishing for trout.

In the ‘80s I had the good fortune to work with Jim Pruett who was driving Pruett Publishing and steering it towards a large fly fishing book inventory.

Working with Jim put fly fishing into the center of my design career as he gave me the opportunity to design fly fishing books for Bud Lily, Chuck Scates, Harry Middleton, Ken Iwamasa, and others.

One book in particular stood out for me. I had only done a few projects with Jim when he offered me the design of John Gierach’s fly fishing classic, Trout Bum. John at that time was a little known writer and newspaper columnist, living and working in Lyons, Colorado.

I remember John came in with the black and white photo which I hand-tinted with Marshall’s oils.


I hand-lettered the title block, above, with pen and ink, the splattered background was created with a toothbrush and ink. The color breakout for the cover was designated with hand-cut sheets of ruby lith. A slow and deliberate process compared to the facile photoshop techniques of today, but it was a good result that holds up pretty well, I think.

Fast forward to 40 years later, and I’m still throwing very tiny flies of feather and hair to annoy trout in the local rivers and streams of Colorado. Jim has sold the family business and moved to the northwest. I’m still riding the design pony, but in a whole new way, mostly for the web and digital media. I have done a few small print projects for the venerable Gordon M. Wickstrom over this last decade, but otherwise I’ve had very little work in the fly fishing realm. And I’d like to change that.

That is what gave rise to this little epistle. I’m putting it out to the universe (via the internet) to bring more fishing design projects into the flow, and in the meantime, I’ll continue fishing.