All the trout fishermen of America can not be fools, so perhaps this group collectively made peace with the devil. No, I think a lot are just plain ignorant, please notice I did not say stupid. Anders Halverson’s An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America And Overran The World will enlighten but not lighten your day. But how could so many upright Americans, even some who vote Democratic, have been so misled into believing the stocked trout they fish for were made by nature? The answer is they were misled by bureaucrats lost in their own faulty science and vote ravenous politicians.
Halverson is good at telling a story so he will take you from the somewhat innocent beginnings to the bureaucratic state run-for-money business that gives you your almost beautiful, bastardized rainbow trout. Taste, please forget that. This is all about selling fishing licences, hopefully to out-of-staters. Here is your first glimpse of the world of fish management. “Rainbow,” Halverson writes, “are native only to the watersheds of the Pacific Rim, from California to Kamchatka.”
So he goes into more detail. “The crazy-quilt distribution of trout in the freshwaters of western North America resulted from tens of millions of years of fluctuating topography and shifting river systems that occurred at the same time as a series of invasions–first by the cutthroats, then by the redband rainbows, and finally by the coastal rainbows.” For historical reference only, “imagine a band along the Pacific Rim, from Baja California and Mazatlan all the way around to the Kamchatka Peninsula. It stretches inland along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers in California, up the Klamath River in northwestern Montana and to Shoshone Falls on the Snake River in Idaho, and into the Athabasca River in Alberta. That is the native range of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss.”
Along the way to your favorite fishing spot that rainbow trout has gone through so many rough hands, cruel minds, sexual and nutritional abuse, not to mention unwise liaisons that what you eventually hold in your hand is, well just a slave of the trade.
Halverson tells a fast paced story that you know is true when you read it but is hard to believe when you look at the fresh thing that has just sprang into your hands. Will I turn down any rainbow offered me, certainly not. I know I can’t have what my Uncle Barney had when he went out to California at the end of the nineteenth century, but with a dry martini that fish is going to taste alright.
There are so many books I feel President Obama should read, and here is another one. The issues are much larger than stocking rainbow trout, and this is an entertaining introduction to the illusive definition of endangered species, or rather what is a species.
Finally, I can not believe so many who spend time and heart, as well as money on waders and gear, do not also care a great deal about their partners, the whatever trout. Charles Marlin