Friday, February 10, 2012

20 Questions: Tom Chandler

Tom Chandler is, if nothing else, busy. I know Tom through Trout Underground, his well-read blog that channels his passion for fly fishing into words.

But if you spend a bit of time at TU (Chandler's TU, that is), you'll come to realize that this dude is more than just some clever fly fisher who occasionally writes. In fact, you might have to reverse the description. Tom is a writer who occasionally fishes. He writes for a living--although he claims to be a consultant. He writes ad copy, does marketing work and, through his other blog, Writer Underground, espouses advice and offers up some tips of the trade to others who are working in the ever-growing field of writing for today's quick-hit consumer.

He's witty and maybe a bit of a cynic--if you've ready any of his posts at TU, you already know that his writing has an edge to it that does one of two things: it either makes you think to yourself, "Damn, I wish I had written that," or, frankly, it turns you off. It's honest writing though, and even if you don't like the message, I think, deep down, you likely admire the way it's delivered.

Tom's pretty unique among bloggers these days. He engages on everything fly fishing touches, from the industry to conservation to how to best consume hatchery steelhead. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's the ultimate fly fishing diletante ... and who's to say I don't know better?

I'll say this (and then I'll let you figure out Tom Chandler on your own), I enjoy Trout Underground. I find myself straddling the fence sometimes when I read what Tom has to say on certain topics, and that's probably because I'm not always comfortable with such honesty. The ultimate convenience, I've always thought, is to be able to (or be brave enough to) write exactly what you think.

Tom does that, and that's why I keep going back for more.

On to the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
You build perfect days (and weeks and months -- and lives) by accruing great moments, whatever their form. They come on the river or at the keyboard or when your daughter runs all the way across the yard to jump into your arms when you get home. Wherever, you actively pursue them and you'll be OK.

Living in fear?
What is your greatest fear?
Becoming useless -- a burden on my friends and family. Second greatest is not being a good dad. As you can tell, I live in fear.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Einstein. Not because I fancy myself a genius, but because I admire the combination of brilliance, irreverence and insight. Anybody who owned a week's worth of identical suits because he didn't want to waste energy deciding what to wear is my hero.

Which living person do you most admire?
Dr. Rick Hodes. I met him in Ethiopia, where he works with the most downtrodden of kids. He treats them, raises money to send them overseas for surgery, and even adopted five of them. He's the real thing, and a character too. He knows most of the episodes of M*A*S*H by heart, and has a quirky sense of humor.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience. Next question.

What is your favorite journey?
The anticipation on the drive to any fishing trip is an almost palpable thing. It would be hard to pick one in particular. My annual drive to Montana is about 14 hours of windshield time, and in a day and age when you just don't get the chance to turn off, that's not bad.

On what occasion do you lie?
The usual. When there's nothing to gain and the truth is just kind of mean.

What is your greatest regret?
I wish I'd moved out of the city and started writing for personal satisfaction much sooner.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I can't stop staring at the bright light that is my little girl.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I'd like to enjoy the gift of real insight -- to be one of those people who sees the essential reality behind things as opposed to the surface.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The decision to leave the Silicon Valley and hunker down in a house alongside a good trout river. Lots of risk and a lot less money, but "your money or your life" had become more than an abstract question for me.

Ask me this again after my little girl has turned out great, and I'll have a different answer.

What is your most treasured possession?
Stuff is stuff. I own one of my father's old work shirts, and because he didn't play very much before he died, I sometimes wear it on fishing trips so he can enjoy a little recreation (admittedly in absentia).

Everything you own carries a maintenance cost of some kind, and I've grown tired of wasting time maintaining things.

Where would you like to live?
I'm not a fan of the vicious, crazy politics, but I like it here in Siskiyou County. If I had to move, I'd prefer a college town near great fly fishing (including small streams). Maybe Missoula.

Nick Hornby, an EMBT 20 Questions
favorite author first. 
Who are your favorite writers?
Thomas McGuane, John Gierach, Nick Hornby, Ted Leeson, Annie Proulx, Garisson Keillor, Jon Krakauer, Roger Zelazny, John McPhee and several hundred others I'm forgetting.

Who are your heroes?
The people who make the world a better place every day (my wife is one of those people).

How would you like to die?
Seconds after watching my daughter win the Olympic Gold Medal. Or maybe getting zorched by lightning while fishing a certain Montana meadow stream. But not too soon.

What's on your iPod?
Like I own an Apple product? For music, I'm already hopelessly old fashioned: Dave Matthews, The Who, Counting Crows, Alison Krauss, Tom Waits, Rolling Stones.

If there's a Heaven, and you're lucky enough to make the cut, what would you like to hear God say to you upon arrival?
"Let's bunk this one with the lingerie models."

What was the most significant moment in your life?
Standing on the banks of the Upper Sacramento River (Dunsmuir City Park) and getting married. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up (in a good way), and I was largely focused on not soiling myself in front of several hundred people (sometimes, it's the little victories that count).

What's your favorite film?
Oddly, it might be High Fidelity (Nick Hornby, John Cusack). Earlier in life it was Breaking Away, so I seem to have a thing for coming of age/committment movies.

BONUS QUESTION: What's your favorite car of all the cars you've owned?
The current fishing vehicle is my 1990, 200,000+ mile Ford Bronco, which has driven over most of California's potholed, failing backroads, yet it always had the good taste to only break down at home.

Nowadays I only drive it in winter and on local fishing trips; it's falling apart and dirty enough on the inside that I could grow crops if I irrigated, which makes it the perfect fishing car.


  1. These answers are much too down to earth. They make it seem as though Tom's just a regular guy, albeit a damn nice one, not a blogging god. I'm confused. Thanks anyway. :-)

  2. Indeed... no lightning, backlit photos ... nothing to suggest omnipotence.

  3. I am lovin' this guy even more...great answers! And don't we all wish for a permanent spot in the river...

  4. Bravo! ... Great questions and answers ... you two could do a standup act on the fly fishing film tour.

  5. Thanks for highlighting TC, certainly in line with another well know (well worn?) old curmudgeon, John Gierach.

  6. Been reading his blog for almost as long as I've been blogging. Always get a kick out of what will come from his keyboard. Great interview!

  7. Love Tom and his always engaging Trout Unlimited blog. This Eat More Brook Trout Blog is excellent as well. I would have picked The Breakfast Club as a Favorite movie over High Fidelity - but can't fault him with the choice. Bravo!

  8. Great Interview !
    I enjoy both Blogs!
    Good questions ...and great answers!
    (Or vice-versa)
    Albert (From Montréal QC)

  9. Ive followed Tom since before he was a father, and I can tell you that it comes thru his keyboard how much she has changed his life and his writing which are one in the same. I visit Tom everyday more for me than for him, which is the true measure of his impact..


  10. Thanks, all, for stopping by. Tom's a unique character for sure... I'm grateful he took the time to participate. Thanks again.

  11. "Tom's pretty unique among bloggers these days."

    Having spent a fair amount of time (but never enough) with Tom over the past ten years, I would say that the first two words in that sentence should never be side-by-side.

    SLF - Dunsmuir

  12. I refuse to shower Tom Chandler (aka Robin Williams) with the praise and adoration due him for being in a league by himself. If I did it would just go to his head, so instead I'd like to dwell out his flaws. Unfortunately I don't know him, so I can't speak to that assuredly long list.

  13. If only everything that was being said about me here were lies...