Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West

Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West

by Jen Corrinne Brown


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From beer labels to literary classics like A River Runs Through It, trout fishing is a beloved feature of the iconography of the American West. But as Jen Brown demonstrates in Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West, the popular conception of Rocky Mountain trout fishing as a quintessential experience of communion with nature belies the sport’s long history of environmental manipulation, engineering, and, ultimately, transformation.

A fly-fishing enthusiast herself, Brown places the rise of recreational trout fishing in a local and global context. Globally, she shows how the European sport of fly-fishing came to be a defining, tourist-attracting feature of the expanding 19th-century American West. Locally, she traces the way that the burgeoning fly-fishing tourist industry shaped the environmental, economic, and social development of the Western United States: introducing and stocking favored fish species, eradicating the less favored native “trash fish,” changing the courses of waterways, and leading to conflicts with Native Americans’ fishing and territorial rights. Through this analysis, Brown demonstrates that the majestic trout streams often considered a timeless feature of the American West are in fact the product of countless human interventions adding up to a profound manipulation of the Rocky Mountain environment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295741703
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 02/01/2017
Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jen Corrinne Brown is professional assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi.

Table of Contents


1. Headwaters
2. Trout Empire
3. Trout Culture
4. Trash Fish
5. Lunkers
6. Wild Trout


What People are Saying About This

Michael W. Childers

A truly intriguing argument that reshapes our understanding of the region, its environment, and culture. Features a wealth of original research.

William Philpott

In wonderfully approachable prose Jen Corrinne Brown guides readers through the many environmental manipulations that were needed to create the mountain states' renowned trout fisheries. In the process, she ties fly-fishing into the wider history of outdoor recreation and environmental change in the West, giving anyone who loves the region or the sport much food for thought.

Paul Schullery

Jen Corrine Brown's timely and well-researched Trout Culture should become a key feature of the national conversation over the ecological, economic, and recreational future of western rivers. Whether we knew it or not, we have been waiting for this book.

Annie Gilbert Coleman

A welcome and clear-eyed history of Rocky Mountain fly fishing, Trout Culture links the growth of the sport and its passionate following to western tourism, and, most importantly, to a history of fish management and environmental change that reveals the significant and often troubling results of our fascination with trout. Fishing enthusiasts and western historians alike should read this book; they will never look at a trout stream the same way again.


Starting in the 1860s and continuing for over a century, fish culturalists and anglers introduced new fish species and stocked billions of hatchery trout in western waters. In narrating this history, I demonstrate that the iconography of western fly fishing and the nostalgia for majestic trout streams was not a timeless feature of the West, but rather the product of anglers, fisheries managers, tourists, guides, local business people, and regional boosters and their century-long profound manipulation of the Rocky Mountain environment. This manuscript situates these changing historical developments within various scales, from the local and watershed levels to national conservation policy and a transnational angling culture. By shifting the geographical framework in a way that addresses multiple scales of environmental change, this manuscript moves western history beyond the provincialism of many place histories and the determinism of strictly bioregional approaches. By doing so, it allows historians to circumvent the dichotomy of process versus place that has dominated western historiography. In addition, by examining how local places and people shaped national and transnational developments in fisheries conservation, a clearer picture of western conservation emerges, one that does not match the recent historiographic thrust of conservation history that has centered on its elite character.This manuscript has the potential to reach a broad audience beyond western and environmental historians and their students. It should furnish important context and background to the current work of many western conservationists, fisheries biologists, and fisheries managers. The focus on fly fishing will tap into this large readership of fly fishers and fly-fishing tourists.

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