Over the past couple weeks I flew through David James Dunan’s classic fishing novel, The River Why. Being fairly immersed in both fishing and books, why am I coming to this work now, 25 years after the fact? Probably because I have an unwarranted bias against River-Runs-Through-It-Big-Two-Hearted-River, old timey trout chasing tales. I haven’t read them, and didn’t want to. Gierach and Lyons make me piss my waders laughing, but the fly fishing novel was not for me.
Then this book changed everything. In fact, it’s in my top five books, period.
This book combines the lower 48’s best fishing with the spiritual depth and humor of the best John Irving. It’s one of a handful of books I would read over and over again.
Duncan wrote an afterward in the 20th anniversary edition, explaining that a sequel to this novel would be to dark to write today and went on to decry the destruction of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem that framed his novel. And his most bitter disgust is saved for farmed Atlantic Salmon:
I never forsaw a day coming when the provincial government of British Columbia would fire its fisheries biologists, as it did in 2001, let corporate ignoramuses call the biological shots, and set loose upon the oceans, the rivers, and the world’s supper tables a “farmed Atlantic salmon” that is in fact a genetic mutant shot full of antibiotics to counteract the fact that it’s grown in pens saturated with its own excrement and raised on a diet consisting largely of slaughterhouse offal.
I’ve been eating wild salmon for a while thanks to the Trout Unlimited Why Wild effort to boycott farmed salmon and give wild salmon economic value (hence protection as a resource). It costs a bit more — nearly twice the price in a lot of cases — but I’m never going back. Most of us don’t have any concept of the true costs of the food we eat (See Omnivore’s Dilema). Duncan’s brief rant on the “anti-salmon” has reconfirmed this, and I’ve decided to boycott fishing trips to British Columbia in the forseeable future — the Babine and Kispiox will have to wait.