Holding Lies review: murder, mystery and fly fishing

As the rain returns to the Northwest and the days get shorter, I’m reading anything I can to keep fly fishing on my brain.

John Larison's other novel is Northwest of Normal.

John Larison’s other fiction novel is Northwest of Normal.

While it’s easy for me to grab a John Gierach classic or re-read Dave Whitlock’s Guide to Aquatic Trout Food, I recently branched out and found an unexpected selection of fly fishing-themed murder mysteries including, Holding Lieswhose author may be familiar to steelhead fisherman.

When John Larison isn’t writing fiction novels, he’s teaching writing at Oregon State University. When he isn’t writing or teaching, he’s guiding Oregon steelhead rivers or writing fly fishing textbooks like Complete Steelheader. Like many guides, Larison’s a multitasker and considering his occupations, it’s easy to see where he found inspiration for Holding Lies.

Set on the fictional Ipsyniho River in Oregon, Holding Lies chronicles the life of 59-year old fly fishing guide, Hank Hazelton. Through Hank, Larison illustrates the often solitary, quirky and challenging aquatic-based lives most guides lead in the pursuit of steelhead and returning clients.

The murder of a young, bull-headed guide and the following police investigation that has Hank on the suspect list puts the guiding community on edge. Hank’s relationship with the book’s other central characters, namely the women in his life, add to his stress. Caroline, Hank’s girlfriend and fellow guide, won’t commit to him and his adult daughter, Annie, takes a leap of faith when she returns to the Ipsyniho to mend her divorce-broken relationship with Hank.

These days I judge a book on its ability to keep what little focus I have. With its mystery element, Larison’s insights into guiding culture and his approachable writing style, Holding Lies kept me turning pages and I recommend it for any water-starved fly fisherman. The hardcover is currently $19.13 at Amazon but only $3.49 on Kindle.

After finishing Holding Lies I wondered how closely Hank’s life modeled Larison’s own, excluding the murder of course. I also wondered which Oregon river inspired the Ipsyniho. Maybe one day I’ll book a day steelhead fishing with Larison to find the answers.

Truth be told, Larison wrote Holding Lies three years ago, and my tardiness with this review explains why I’m not a professional reviewer. Nevertheless, I’m on the lookout for new fly fishing book releases for the winter, including a good murder-mystery or two.

Drop a comment below with any recommendations.

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