Thursday, January 27, 2022

“Hook, Line, and Sinker” a book review by Glacier Conservancy Exec. Director Doug Mitchell

by Doug Mitchell
| January 12, 2022 12:00 AM

A Fine-Spotted Trout on Corral Creek

By Matthew Dickerson

Wings Press, 2021

“Hook, Line, and Sinker”

a book review by Doug Mitchell

Executive Director, Glacier National Park Conservancy

To steal from Dorothy Boyd in Jerry McGuire, Matthew Dickerson had me at hello. As a part-time fly fisherman and a full-time Glacier Park lover, I enjoyed every page of Dickerson’s most recent book, A Fine-Spotted Trout on Corral Creek. Dickerson, Glacier Park’s 2017 Artist-In-Residence, writes elegantly about his experience here searching for and learning about native cutthroat trout. While the title refers to what sounds like a beautiful creek in the Bridger Teton National Forest, the bulk of the book is written in and about the author’s experience in Glacier Park.

Readers will join Dickerson as he watches the sun rise at Logan Pass before hiking to cast for trout at Hidden Lake. We’ll stroll along McDonald Creek, and up the Snyder drainage. We’ll row with him and Ranger John in a canoe on the North Fork, float together on a drift boat on the Middle Fork, and walk with him on his frequent morning ritual of discovery just in front of Lake McDonald Lodge. In sharing his experience in words on a page, Dickerson opens our eyes to freshly see and discover the wonder around us that we may take for granted. In doing so, he provides me with a poignant reminder of the very special nature of this place in which we are fortunate to live, work, and play.

While A Fine-Spotted Trout on Corral Creek is a stunning narrative about one man’s adventures in fishing, it’s also a richly informed text that brings to light the critical role native fish play in our interdependent ecosystem. Dickerson mixes in beautiful prose about place, sentences like “Wind soughs through the trees. In the distance I hear the roar of the swollen river” with spot-on science, “…when the native genes of cutthroat trout are replaced … the genetic diversity of the native fish and the corresponding fitness, resilience, and adaptability get lost.”

Dickerson’s views on the science are well researched and documented. Wherever he went he sought out the scientific experts in the field doing the hands on work to learn about the issues on the ground and in the water. That investigation gives context to his explorations with his trusty L.L. Bean fly rod, and weave seamlessly into the narrative under the author’s experienced pen.

As a result, his book is both fun to read and important. It’s a book that quotes Robin Wall Kimmerer and Wendell Berry, while also referencing Tolkien (Dickerson has also published several books about the writings of Tolkien, including one about environmental aspects of Tolkien’s works), and including copious footnotes linking to scientific papers. His search for native cutthroat trout is also a search for answers about how we connect with the natural world, and what happens to habitat and the animals who depend on it if we don’t get it right.

Even if you are not an angler, you’ll enjoy A Fine-Spotted Trout on Corral Creek. But if you are, my guess is like me, you’ll be caught hook, line, and sinker.

The author is donating his royalties from sales of A Fine-Spotted Trout on Corral Creek to the Glacier National Park Conservancy to support their work helping preserve Glacier Park for future generations. His publisher, Wings Press, has agreed to match that contribution.