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Trout Culture

Jen Corrinne Brown starts with an interesting premise: trout, more than just about anything else here in the wide open vastness of the Rocky Mountain West, shaped who we are.

The tiny minnows were carried here by rail and horseback. Brook trout were brought from the East Coast; brown trout from Europe. And fish as unique as the golden trout were laboriously collected in high mountain streams of California and slipped gently into our rivers and lakes.

There they, along with the modern hatchery system, altered the landscape and the people – for better or worse.

She makes some thought-provoking and valid points: nonnative trout did a number on the Rockies’ native cutthroats, among other fish.

But did they permanently shape our culture? One could argue not so much.

Nonnative trout did hurt native populations, but so did logging, overgrazing, irrigating and dam building. Nonnative trout have also become a significant source of income out here by way of tourism – but on the list of reasons why a family of four vacations in Yellowstone National Park, for example, fishing wouldn’t likely make the top five.

I wouldn’t say most of Brown’s points are incorrect. She has pages upon pages of footnotes to back up her exhaustively researched book. But I would caution maybe the premise overstates one fish’s importance on the landscape.

That being said, it’s still worth a read for anyone interested in the past century and a half of history here, from the railroads to the modern guiding services.

You’ll learn more than you thought you might even for people who grew up here. So on a day when the streams are blown out and the wind gusts are strong, grab this book and read about the history of those leaping, writhing, colorful fish.

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