Other Websites from Matthew Dickerson
For (more frequently updated) photos, articles, reflections, and essays, etc., on trout, fly fishing, and rivers, see my website:
with co-author David O'Hara.
Links to Articles
I have written articles, stories, and essays...
for arts magazines, fishing magazines, literary journals, newspapers, journals of ecopoetics, and online magazines including: Written River, Fly Fish America, Eastern Fly Fishing, Middlebury Magazine, The Drake, and more ...
on a variety of topics related to rivers, trout, fly fishing, ecology, nature, wilderness, conservation, and the outdoors. Often on several of these at once. My style tends toward the personal narrative side of creative non-fiction.
A few of my avaiable articles on trout, fly fishing, nature and ecology, the outdoors (available free and online):
- "The Clearcut, the Cutthroat, and the Cascade Effect" in Written River (2015)
- "Return to the South Fork of the Eagle River" in Written River (2016)
- "A Lot Of Work For One Trout"in The Addison Independent (Oct. 27, 2016)
- "On Fishing, Walking, Reading and Writing"in The Addison Independent (Oct. 13, 2016)
- "A Lot Of Work For One Trout"in The Addison Independent (Oct. 27, 2016)
- "Wild Wyoming Cutthroat Trout" in The Addison Independent (July 21, 2016)
IF YOU WANT TO BUY MY BOOKS...
...by all means, please do! Thank you.
Although my books are available through the big on-line box stores, please consider ordering them directly from the publishers or through an independent bookstore, or buying them at your favorite local bookstore. Here are links to the publisher bookstores:
- Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia Wipf and Stock (2014)
- Trout in the Desert: On Fly Fishing, Human Habits, and the Cold Waters of the Arid SouthwestWings Press (2015)
- Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia
- Trout in the Desert: On Fly Fishing, Human Habits, and the Cold Waters of the Arid Southwest
Excerpt from Downstream
It is mid-morning on a late June day when we arrive in the tiny village of Gilead, Maine and put our canoe into the Androscoggin River. We park the car at the bridge downstream from the small delta where the Wild River flows in from the south out of Evans Notch and the shadow of Mount Washington. It is a rich and verdant valley. The shores are lined with a varied mix of hardwoods and conifers. Tall pines and spruce tower over the smaller cedars right on the water’s edge. The white of the occasional paper birch stands in sharp contrast to the deeper greens. Standing here I think of the Biblical town of Gilead in another mountainous region, one east of the Jordan River in ancient Israel. The name Gilead means “hill of witness.” This modern Gilead, also, will be a witness of something good, of life where there once was death. It will be a place of balm to heal an old and mortal wound.
Dave and I are here with Dave’s thirteen-year-old son Michael for a day of fly-fishing and canoeing along a six-mile-long float of the Androscoggin. In the past, the river has held transplanted European browns and west coast rainbows. But recently native eastern brookies have been returning—some on their own, finding their way down from clean mountain tributaries like the Wild River, and some with the help of state hatchery trucks. We are hoping to hook some brook trout, but we will be happy to catch any trout at all.
To say that the water is high, however, would be a gross understatement. Two weeks of daily thunderstorms have turned it into a dark and wild torrent. “Almost unfishable” is the expression we use to describe it. And dark clouds are threatening even more rain. We consider turning back to the camp where we are staying twenty minutes away in the village of Bryant Pond. But Dave and Michael have driven from South Dakota to spend a week with me in Maine. We don’t have the luxury of waiting a few days for the water to settle. So we go through the motions of setting up our rods and tying on flies, even though this small labor may prove futile.
Just below its confluence with the Wild River, the main current of the Androscoggin divides around a wide gravel bar. The stronger current flows down the southern shore past a pair of huge granite boulders, deposited here centuries ago by the forces that shape rivers. A few dozen yards below the boulders, the river narrows and the southern channel swirls hard around a long, deep ledge. A smaller channel, though one still too deep to wade except in mid-summer, follows the wooded northern shore. The gravel bar separating these two channels is about thirty yards wide and fifty yards long. In the summer it typically ranges from a few inches deep to something just over the knees. When the water is at mid-summer low, some of the gravel bar becomes exposed, and the currents on either side are slow and shallow enough that a steady and adventurous wader can sometimes work out to it from upstream. On the downstream side, however, it drops off into a deep hole and is accessible only by boat.
My favorite way to fish this stretch is to canoe up from below, anchor the canoe on rocks or in shallow water midstream between the swift currents, and then step out of the canoe and wade the gravel bar in the middle of the river. In this way I can cast to either side or work the deep pool below without having to deal with the clumsiness of casting from a canoe.
On this day, however, this gravel bar is under so much water it isn’t even visible. Not that it matters. We couldn’t paddle a canoe against the heart of the rain-swelled current. There is no way up there without an outboard motor. And no anchor would hold us even if we succeeded in getting there. The best we can do is paddle hard up the eddies against the north shore and take a few casts behind the boulders that stick out a dozen yards downstream of the gravel bar. Dave is in the bow of our canoe, and Michael sits in a low seat in the middle. I am in the stern. Dave and Michael tie on streamers, and I put on a large heavily weighted stonefly nymph. We make the requisite casts, letting our flies sink as deep as they can. The casts, as expected, are fruitless. We should probably remove the word “almost” from the phrase “almost unfishable”. The turbulent water is the color of tea that had been left steeping far too long. Perhaps Earl Grey, Dave’s favorite afternoon blend. How many feet of visibility in a really large cup of Earl Grey?
Excerpt from Trout in the Desert
However there are native trout in the arid southwest. They live high in the mountains, often at 6000’ or 7000’ in elevation, in waters fed much of the year by snow runoff, and by cold springs exposed tens of thousands of years ago by volcanic eruptions like the ones that created the caldera from which the headwaters of the West Fork of the Gila flow. They remain shielded by a canopy of forests that grow even in the southwest at altitudes where peaks can trap passing moisture.
Many of these trout populations are gone, mostly because of human changes to their environment. But endangered remnants of some remain, where they and their environment have been protected. Strains of native cutthroats can still be found even in the higher elevations in tributaries of the Rio Grande near the border of Texas and New Mexico. There are even trout in the mountains further south in Mexico. Among all these desert trout, the Apache and Gila trout of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona—golden-hued relatives of the rainbow trout—hold a special place in my imagination. I had never caught or even seen one.
For the past few weeks, as I prepared for the trip, I have been reading Greg McNamee’s account of Gila: the Life and Death of an American River. It is a beautifully written tale, but also a tragic one, recounting some of the extremes of atrocities that humans are willing to commit upon one another and on the earth. It is a tale of a river that once sustained an abundance of life—including human life—over tens of thousands of square miles from the mountains of what is now New Mexico for six hundred miles westward to the Colorado River. And which now is just a dry river bed for much of its length.
Growing up in the northeast, where water is abundant, it is hard for me to imagine that a once swift and abundant river like the Gila could be so dammed and exploited that its waters no longer reach the ocean. But, of course, the Colorado River itself no longer reaches the ocean much of the year.
High up at its headwaters in the national forest that bears its name, however, the Gila still flows year round, clean and clear and cold. It has been offered some protection, thanks in part to the efforts of Aldo Leopold. Which is another reason for me to visit. I have taught courses at Middlebury College exploring the writings and ideas of Leopold, whose only life was shaped in part by his experiences along the headwaters of the Gila and by the beauty of that area. I wanted to see this land that so inspired and shaped one of our country’s most important conservationists.
Endorsements and Reviews:
"Downstream is an immersion (almost literally) in the streams and rivers of Appalachia in the company of two university professors, friends who through the years have developed both competence and knowledge in fly fishing. From its early pages I was riveted. Their language is exuberant but also disciplined. It didn't take me long to know that it would soon take its place on my bookshelf alongside John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. They are that good." --Eugene H. Peterson, Regent College, Vancouver, BC, Canada
"[in Downstream] O'Hara and Dickerson remind us that a fly fisher must think like a trout--then they lead us on a rugged and beautiful adventure through an ever-expanding 'riparian cosmos.' Downstream radiates out from Manitou's brookie into seamlessly shifting currents of ecology, philosophy, biology, personal history, engineering, natural history, theology, and management until we don't know where the human perspective begins and the brook trout's ends. They present a universe both stunning in its magnificence and terrifying in its fragility." --Andrea Knutson, Oakland University, Rochester, MI
"[in Downstream] O'Hara and Dickerson embark on an angler's quest for the fragile but resilient Appalachian brook trout, from the brawling rivers of Maine to tiny Smoky Mountain headwaters in Tennessee. But their journey reveals much more than that, about why we seek the places that trout live--the rivers and streams that allow us to know ourselves and find our way. This book is the vessel for a philosophy that celebrates nature, place, family, and home." --Kurt D. Fausch, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
"Downstream] traces and enacts the intricacies of confluence within the Appalachian chain's fissured topography. Just as the rich terminology related to aquatic invertebrates, the life cycle of trout, and fly-tying gathers into a larger ecological, geological, and social vision, so too the distinctive voices of these two fine writers join in a moving dialogue on friendship and family, literature and the land." --John Elder, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
About Trout in the Desert):
"It's in our DNA, it seems: spend time beside flowing water, and you will incline to thinking philosophically. Spend time beside flowing water in the desert, that all too rare thing, and you will be spurred to indignation at how badly we humans manage creation. Spend time casting lines and lures into a desert stream, and your mind will fill with intimations of mortality and immortality and the nature of things. All of these matters, and more, turn up in these pages as Matthew Dickerson, a fine and eloquent storyteller, leads us into a world of currents, tippets, and ties in search of, yes, a trout in the desert — but more, a river worthy of that magnificent, elusive fish. It's an epic voyage in a slender volume; one that every angler and river rat will want to read." -- Gregory McNamee, author of Gila: The Life and Death of an American River
"If Matthew Dickerson's paean to the cold waters and elusive fish of the American southwest were not so beautifully rendered you might be tempted to put it down, get out your rod, and step into the nearest stream. But Trout in the Desert will stop you in your tracks. It is not only a splendid testament to one man's passion, but an enchanting evocation of a landscape's unfolding secrets." -- Sue Halpern, regular contributor to The New Yorker, author of A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher