by David M. Carroll
writer who enthralled me with his descriptions of swamps and wetlands has penned a lovely book describing the lives of trout. I'm not one who goes fishing, so I probably didn't love this book quite as much as an avid fly fisherman would but I do like reading about natural habitats and the behavior of different kinds of animals, so there was much here to interest me. The lives of fish are pretty unfamiliar to me. I did not realize, for example, that trout prefer very cold water; to them the hard times are summer when they must avoid the warm areas and suffer from low water levels. I never thought about the fact that trout, like most animals, mate in fall and their young hatch in spring- but that means that their eggs lie unattended all winter long under the cold and ice. Fish eggs seem such small, fragile things to me but of course they're not. I also did not know how territorial the fish can be, shuffling hierarchy amongst themselves, their movements to different kinds of water flow or shelter according to the season and needs they face.
There is, within the narrative, some discourse on how human meddling has altered the numbers of native trout and how species intermingle, and the problems that releasing hatchery-raised fish into wild populations cause. And encounters the author has with other wildlife: herons, kingfishers, mink, beavers and their structures. But mostly it's all about the elusive fish.
Trout seem to be such wary, sensitive creatures, always with an eye to the ceiling of their world, watching for prey to snatch or predators to avoid. A lot of this book is just a description of the turning seasons (it begins and ends in the chill of winter) and of how the author moves stealthily along streamsides, exploring them and trying to approach without alerting the fish. He releases most of his catch, extols their beautiful colors, and sketches their forms. Exquisite artwork decorates nearly every page. This guy is even better at drawing fish than he is sketching turtles and birds. It is a very quiet, musing, contemplative sort of book. Rarely do any other people make an appearance. Mostly the author's thoughts and the quiet woods and the changing weather and the subtle fish hidden under moving water. I often had this Escher print in mind when reading.
It's the kind of book you want to read uninterrupted, surrounded by quietness- or at least, the sound of wind in trees and bird calls perhaps, as opposed to traffic noise or background tv or kids yelling. No. It requires a calm background to really appreciate.
Rating: 4/5 .......... 143 pages, 1993
Books- any which way they come