Sunday, March 4, 2012

20 Questions: Jason Tucker

Jason Tucker and I share a passion for brook trout. Both of us have managed to maintain fairly successful blogs thanks to fontinalis salvelinus, and we're both hopelessly addicted to crawling up tiny backcountry trickles, hoping against hope that brookies are there waiting for us.

You likely know Jason through his blog, Fontinalis Rising. It was one of the first blogs I visited when I truly embraced this medium, and it was largely because of the name.

But now, I find myself a frequent visitor simply to take in what Jason has crafted. His prose is easy to read, spurs the mind and speaks of the things all creek freaks hold dear, brook trout being center to all of it.

But I got to know Jason best through the answers to the following questions. When I went to trim the responses to 20 (plus the famous bonus question), I really struggled. When I first read them, I could tell that, unlike others, Jason put genuine thought into his answers. There's a temptation, I think, to err on the side of humor when presented a questionnaire like this one. When Kirk Werner at the Unaccomplished Angler turned the tables on me, and I was forced to answer the questions that I'd crafted with the help of the back page of Vanity Fair, I realized the challenge that accompanies this little endeavor.

The questions spur a series of moral dilemmas... do I answer that one truthfully, or do I fall back on a joke? Or maybe a touch of both? It's honestly a lot harder than it looks.

I can say, this, though. Jason bares his soul in the answers below, and I respect him greatly for it. He's living proof that, despite our foibles, we are inherently good people. Flawed, imperfect ... but good.

Jason, I can't thank you enough for the honesty. It's my pleasure to introduce the you not many people know. On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Lying on my back on a sunny bugless day in late June on the banks of a trout stream, 3-weight lying next to me, watching the clouds pass overhead, with no place to be, and no external pressures.

What is your greatest fear?
Dying alone and forgotten.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Teddy Roosevelt–yeah, he’d kick my ass, but I’d be that much better for it. Have you read his books? They were tough back then, and part of me feels I have more in common with that era than the digital one.

Still showing her face in public...
Which living person do you most admire?
Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan–the fact that they still show themselves in public.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Disorganization–I’m good on the job, but horribly disorganized personally.

What is your favorite journey?
For all of its twists and turns, fly fishing has led me to places and thing I never expected–may it never end.

Which living person do you most despise?
Despise is a big word I reserve for people like Hitler. I despise traits, but believe that most people honestly believe they are good, even if wildly misguided. I despise partisan hacks, so take your pick. Sarah Palin comes to mind.

"I love you, too, Jason..."
What is your greatest regret?
Not being able to raise my daughter. I always feel like a bad father, even though much of that has been out of my control. She was my little buddy for a number of years.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What–Fly fishing. Who–my brother Jonathan. We’ve been buddies since childhood, and to this day he is one of the most caring, funny, intelligent and selfless individuals I know.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’m from a musical family–everyone in my family including my daughter either plays one or more instruments extremely well, or sings very well or both. Somehow that gene skipped me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Honestly? My blog–I never expected that people would read it, but it has been a success in my view. Can you measure success in groupies?

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A willow tree on a trout stream. It would be a treasure just to stand there and watch the turn of the seasons for a couple of hundred years, to provide shade and comfort for anglers, nesting places for birds, hiding spots for bugs which would then feed the trout, and in my eventual death and collapse, to provide habitat for the fish, and an obstacle for canoeists to portage.

What is your most treasured possession?
Kayaking is the love I don’t talk about. I have a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 that is a dream to paddle, and has so many features built into the hull that I don’t know how to use them all. I can take it down one of our fast, narrow trout streams here, or take it on an extended camping trip, even on the Great Lakes. It’s my second home.

Where would you like to live?
I like where I live now, in northern Michigan, but secretly my soul pines for Hawaii–I went a few years back expecting American kitsch, and found it to be far more astonishing than I could have imagined.

Like Thoroux, Jason Tucker is a wanderer.
Who are your favorite writers?
Paul Theroux in his travelogues by far–I borrow some of my writing style from him, followed by Tim Cahill, Randy Wayne White, Jon Krakauer and David Quammen. I cut my teeth reading Outside magazine in its Golden Age. I still love Rudyard Kipling and Herman Melville, and Call of the Wild by Jack London may have been the most influential book in my life. Period.

How would you like to die?
I don’t want to die. That said, I have a strange fantasy of paddling off into the sunset in my kayak and just disappearing.

What’s on your iPod?
I have a mix of 80s and 90s alternative that no one has heard of, and a range of other stuff that runs the gamut. Three you’ve heard of–Cake, Van Halen and Soundgarden. Three you haven’t heard of–Rx Bandits, Porcupine Tree and Electronssmashprotons.

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now?
I was born to write, but into a family of farmers and tradesmen. I would easily trade in my painting for writing, but guess what? On average, painting pays better.

Which actor/actress would play you in the movie about your life, and why?
Matthew Broderick–before we both got old and ugly, people said we looked just alike.

Jason's brother Jonathan drinks the last of the water during the
near-death experience in the Superstition Wilderness. Seriously.
Jason provided this photo.
What’s the closest you’ve ever been to dying?
My brother Jonathan and I got lost in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix, Ariz., in 2003. We hiked for 21 hours, ran out of water, climbed mesas and canyons in the dark, and walked a total of 29 miles in that time. I was so dehydrated that all the skin on my lips fell off two days later in one big sheet, and it took a week to recover. We seriously thought it was over.

BONUS QUESTION: If you could go back in time, what year would you visit first?
America, circa 1865, when her buffalo and game herds were intact. It would have been awesome to see this land while its ecosystems, from the Great Lakes, to the Plains, to California’s Central Valley to the Columbia river basin were in their prime.


  1. A very insightful interview. But, I would never expect less from FR! A talented, creative writer, he is. And Lindsay, no more orange jumpsuit pictures, please! (or any other, as a matter of fact!)

    1. Thanks RD. If I never see Lindsay again it will be too soon.

  2. FR is the man. I wouldn't expect anything less than an honest and insightful personal assessment from the man from Michigan.

    1. Thanks Howard. I'm rather thankful he left out my raw replies to the other 9 questions.

  3. Good stuff, gents. I've enjoyed my brief conversations with Jason and appreciate the supplemental insight these Qs have provided.

    And speaking of Qs, I see some new questions have been introduced. A nice addition.

    1. We'll fish this year together Mike, if I can help it.

    2. I'd like that a lot, Jason. Let's make it happen.

  4. Well done Jason! You are a writer sir, no matter where your pay check comes from. I look forward to the next time we hit the water together, hopefully we can get after it soon!

    Enjoyed the interview a ton.


    1. Thanks Sand-man. I'll keep typing no matter what. I'll fish with you in September.

  5. Definitely one of the most enjoyable and interesting 20s so far. ...and I've kept up. Amazing all the stuff that has yet to be learned about each one of us; here is another slice of some good pie!

    1. Thanks Will- I've said it already, but I'm thankful he didn't print all of my answers. There are many large chapter's I have yet to share, and many I never will.

  6. Chris- I enjoyed the interview. Let's you and I go catch some brook trout before too much time elapses. I know where we can catch some natives....

  7. Another splendid interview with a guy who is an exceptional host. While *I* was a guest in his storage room, he not only plied me with exceptional coffee, but also took me smelt fishing. All kidding aside, JT is one of my favorite bloggers that I've never yet had the pleasure to meet. Thanks again, Chris, and to Mr. Tucker for the insight. A pleasure.

    1. Thanks Kirk. We'll have to wet a line some day, but not for smelt. Technically, I and *I* wet net for smelt.

  8. All... thanks for stopping by. Jason, it was my pleasure--thanks for your thoughtful answers. I very much enjoyed putting this one together!

  9. Well done, Jason. Jason is one of my favorite outdoor writers going.

    FR - you answered which actor would play you...but, which actress would play you? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Nicole Kidman definitely. She has that je ne sais quoi that I embody.