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Fire in the Straw

Notes on Inventing a Life

"I love Nick Lyons's books. Every sentence is so full and ripe." 
--Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II 

Publisher, professor, mentor, father, husband, writer, Nick Lyons begins his story when his mother drops him off at boarding school at the tender age of five. Little Nicki finds solace in what moves beneath the surface of water. This abiding fascination is a lifeline for him as he stumbles his way through school, through his service in the Army, through the cold disapproving glare of the conman who is his stepfather. Disgusted by his own business degree from University of Pennsylvania (where he snagged a spot on the basketball team despite topping out at 5'9"), Nick flounders after the Army (where he first fell in love with art and Hemingway), refusing to go into the family insurance business. Words beckon him. The world of literature first laps at his toes then consumes him in a flood and Nick plunges with whole mind and heart into his own literary education, first at Bard, where he falls in love with Mari, a cattle rancher's daughter. 

Soon, armed with a PhD in literature from University of Michigan, with a wife and four children to support, he embarks on his adult life, juggling family, teaching, writing, fishing, and publishing with the wolf always at his door. Against all odds, the little publishing house that bears his name thrives. His children prosper, his wife’s art flourishes, and his writing makes him a household name within the fly-fishing community.  With scathing honesty as well as a brilliant, warm humor, Nick Lyons skillfully paints a portrait of a complex life examined. Fire in the Straw is a love story, a confessional, and a beautiful big-hearted memoir of a hard-won life well lived.


Nick Lyons is a former English professor and book publisher, as well as the author and editor of many books on various topics. He lives in New York City.

In Praise of Fire in the Straw:

“If a book can be life altering, and they sure can be, then this is one of them. There is no mystery why Fire in the Straw is this way, since it is charming, moving, filled with stories, with looks at how things really are in the world, told with a voice I absolutely trust and admire. The item, above everything else, that a book like this provides is inspiration. What a life Nick Lyons has had, fisherman, publisher, father, and loving husband to his wife, and all of it told with a lovely humility, with humor, and with that rare sense of what really matters."  -- Craig Nova, author of The Good Son

In Praise of Nick Lyons' previous books:

"Within the pond of those who write about fly-fishing, Lyons is one of the bigger fish."--Publishers Weekly

"The world needs more of so generous a soul." -- Kirkus Reviews

"I love Nick Lyons's books. Every sentence is so full and ripe with whatever it is that keeps us fishing-and the minute-by-minute surprise and delight of it."--Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II and the author of Birthday Letters

"Nick Lyons is quite simply the tops, in stylish prose, gentle wit, and accumulated wisdom. Add his sense of humility and complete honesty-rare qualities among us fly fishermen-and you will begin to understand why Lyons' essays are essential to our sanity."--William W. Warner, author of Beautiful Swimmers

"A former English professor turned publisher whose contribution to outdoors writing is hard to overestimate." —Midcurrent Magazine

"His departures from piscatory tales offer readers thoughtful musings on aging, art, and publishing." -- Library Journal

"Fly-fishing isn't a spectator sport, but if Nick Lyons fishes as skillfully as he writes about it, I'd payto watch him. He's that happy and compulsive combination of angler-poet-romantic, and his book is a joy."--Ed Zern

"A warm, nostalgic and yet enormously canny and rewarding book about those twin mysteries, fishing and fishermen."--Robert Traver

"There's one way to tell a Nick Lyons fan: just hand one of us a copy of Fly Fisherman magazine. It doesn't matter how huge the trout on the cover is, or what experts are holding forth in the feature articles, we'll turn to the back page and read Nick's column, 'The Seasonable Angler,' first. Over the past fifteen years it's become a sort of ritual-first the poetry of the sport, then the technique."--John Gierach

More books from this author: Nick Lyons