Does a lifetime of being obsessed with steelhead fishing make you a better person?
If you’re Dylan Tomine, the answer is yes.
In his new book Headwaters, Tomine has a collection of both published and unpublished essays that proves that contention.
As with most people, his essays trace a life that begins with an obsession with outward success (in Dylans’ life, of catching salmon and steelhead). But as he matures as a man and then a father, he grows in understanding that a successful life is about giving ourselves to protecting what we love and giving hope to those who follow us.
It’s not a somber book – though his essays on the plight of native salmon and steelhead leave one with a mixture of desperation and hope.
His description of buying what he thought were sausages from a street vendor in Buenos Aires, only to learn soon after the first bite they were spoiled meat used for bait still leaves me chuckling.
His time of the rivers of Washington’s Olympic peninsula reminded me of my trips to many of those same rivers, though mine were in summer with an older hiking companion and without a spey rod. While I didn’t share the memories of fishing, the memories of time with my friend Russ are still treasured.
There are successes, like the removal of the dams on the Elwa River – and the surprising restoration of native salmon, steelhead, and trout. And there are failures, like the continued effort by state agencies for fish hatcheries that weaken the native fish and ultimately reduced the total numbers of returning fish each year.
This book marks not the end of a journey, but more of a report to understand how one man came to where he is and the urgency with which he continues to write (and fight) for what he values and the world he wants to leave for his children.