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Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey

David Joy

Bright Mountain Books
$16.00 paperback
6 x 9  
208 pages
17 black-and-white illustrations
August 2011

In Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey, David Joy uses his obsession with fly fishing as a way to delve into himself. Through his deep connection to the natural world, Joy reveals why he is inherently defined by fish and water. The youngest in a family of fishermen, Joy has been exposed to the passion of casting lines since an early age. Yet as he grows older, he finds that the influence and necessity of the piscine world take on a new role in his life.

Growing Gills articulates the philosophical implications of time spent on the Atlantic seashore, at Piedmont lakes, and in Appalachian streams. Joy explores family and friends, environmentalism and respect for wild places, prize catches and the “ones that got away,” the beauty of native trout, the greed of developers, the worn cork of rods, and the art of fly tying. Ultimately, by revealing the reasons for his obsession, he is able to understand the man he has become—truly a fish out of water.

Equally a book about fishing and a story of life, Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey is the tale of one man’s venture into the wild to find understanding.




  • Finalist for the 17th annual Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment


“If any human could grow gills, it would be David Joy. His lifelong connection to fish is vividly realized in this book, in large part because of his poetic language and sensibility. Growing Gills is a book anyone interested in our connection to the natural world will relish.”
—Ron Rash, author of Serena
“Attention fishing widows: if you’ve struggled in vain to understand man’s obsession with fishing, you must read David Joy’s memoir, Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey. In prose clean and clear as a mountain stream, Joy explores his own abiding love of fish and, by extension, the natural world that is their habitat. His passion is contagious. Even if you’ve never seen a trout in your life, by the end of this beautifully written book you can’t help feeling a connection. You may even be tempted to take up a rod yourself.”
—Pamela Duncan, author of Plant Life