In ‘Headwaters,’ a Bainbridge Island creator’s fish story is a conservation wake-up name

Dylan Tomine ought to have been fishing.

Instead, in March 2001, he writes in his new ebook, “I stand on the porch at noon, looking at the lush green of new spring foliage, feeling lost.”

Lost as a result of, for the primary time since Tomine had deserted a promising promoting profession in California in 1992 and moved to Seattle to fly fish, there was no opening day for catch-and-release wild steelhead season on the Skykomish River on account of dwindling fish shares. “My traditional kickoff to two solid months of daily fishing and nights filled with crazed fly tying, gear drying, lunch making, weather forecasts, water levels, and phone reports,” he writes. “A day, a season, a pursuit I plan my life around.”

That dispiriting second proved pivotal for Tomine, who realized that he might now not be a self-described steelhead bum with out selecting up the mantle of fish conservation. Tomine particulars his journey from boyhood fishing escapades in Corvallis, Oregon, to the high-profile function of fly-fishing ambassador for outside gear firm Patagonia in his new ebook, “Headwaters: The Adventures, Obsession, and Evolution of a Fly Fisherman” (Patagonia Books, $27.95), which he’ll focus on at 6 p.m. April 14 at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island, the place Tomine, 55, has lived since 2004.

“Headwaters” is a set of beforehand printed tales in fishing magazines, just a few unpublished items and poignant, diaristic vignettes from Tomine’s life on the water, just like the reminiscence from March 2001, combined with emotionally revealing prose about elevating two youngsters, now achieved at fishing in their very own rights, as a single father. The technical language of the fly-fishing craft will sail over the heads of nonfishing readers like an errant forged, however Tomine’s vivid travelogues from the world’s nice fishing grounds — in Alaska, Argentina, British Columbia, Cuba, Japan and Russia — show what a bunch of authors from Hemingway on down can attest: Fish tales make for charming storytelling.

Fly-fishing particularly provides the chance for exploration, a phenomenon all-too-rare within the twenty first century. Tomine is a devotee of fishing the austral summer season in South America’s Patagonia, from which he had simply returned when he spoke to The Seattle Times in early April.

“Why, as several friends have asked, would anyone want to travel so far to fish a huge river in a place famous for wind, for fish that aren’t necessarily any bigger or more numerous than you might find somewhere closer to home?” he writes. “Maybe it’s because the Rio Santa Cruz is an adventure unlike any other in fly-fishing, with an opportunity to pioneer a section of river that’s hardly been fished, in a breathtakingly isolated setting.

“Or it could be the fish themselves, a unique run of introduced wild Atlantic steelhead that are just now in the process of evolving and filling their niche,” he writes. “While most, if not all, steelhead fisheries in the Pacific Northwest seem to be caught in a long and miserable downward spiral, the Rio Santa Cruz is on the upswing.”

That comparability cuts to the bone of the opposite main pressure in “Headwaters”: saving wild fish.

Tomine balances an angler’s obsession with scientific reasoning as he mounts a passionate protection for taking the steps wanted to save lots of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead from California to Alaska. Chief amongst these steps is ending what he argues is a counterproductive public funding in fish hatcheries, which price taxpayers massive sums however result in worse outcomes, as hatchery fish dilute the genetic pool for wild fish, who’ve advanced to outlive the arduous life cycle of freshwater delivery, saltwater maturity and freshwater return. Tomine writes convincingly concerning the pernicious influence of hatcheries, which can also be the topic of “Artifishal,” a 2019 Patagonia documentary that he produced.

As a Puget Sound resident, Tomine feels a particular obligation. “If you look at the geographic range of a species, the most abundance is usually at the geographic middle,” he stated through cellphone. “At one time the Puget Sound and Columbia River complex had one of the biggest salmon runs in the world.”

For fishers lamenting the precipitous decline in Washington, a spot the place Steelhead Country as soon as jockeyed with Evergreen State for state nickname, they typically flip north to the seemingly extra considerable waters of British Columbia and Alaska. “What looks like insane abundance to us now really only points out the loss of what we’ve had here in the heart of salmon country,” the creator stated.

And Tomine isn’t Pollyannish about his trigger célèbre right this moment, greater than twenty years after his canceled-season epiphany.

“The situation for wild fish survival is significantly worse now than it was then,” he stated. “Hatchery production has continued and even increased in an effort to feed the orcas. Climate change is starting to show the beginning of pretty serious effects as far as summer drought and winter flooding. The human population in the region has continued to grow.”

He does level to a couple vivid spots, nonetheless, particularly on the problem of dam removing, from the epic Elwha on the Olympic Peninsula to the latest free-flowing part of the Nooksack within the North Cascades. As for the continued battle over the Lower Snake River, Tomine is assured the river’s 4 controversial dams will come down in his lifetime.

If this dialogue sounds extra like environmental politics than fishing, that’s as a result of the 2 are more and more codependent.

Tomine’s descriptions of his carefree youth spent meandering round Corvallis in the hunt for trout are relics of a bygone period. While wild fish conservation is advocacy work distinctive to fishing, Tomine’s overarching level holds true for anybody who finds solace and sustenance in wild locations.

“We’ve reached a point where there’s an inherent responsibility that’s required of the recreationalist,” he stated. In different phrases, he argues, climbers, skiers, hikers, surfers, mountain bikers, hunters and kayakers all have an obligation to interact on points like public lands entry, environmental degradation and local weather change.

Not that Tomine can’t wax poetic in the identical approach a surfer describes the right wave or a skier crows over an excellent powder run.

“The sleek, chrome beauty, luminous and explosive, carrying all the strength and fecundity of the sea to inland waters. In essence, steelhead fishing is an opportunity to encounter ocean fish in the kind of water usually associated with trout,” he writes. “And it’s the spectacular places these fish inhabit as well, from steep-walled alpine rapids rushing beneath glaciers to the dark and mysterious coastal rainforest rivers, dripping with moss and the sweet scent of wet alders. From meandering tidewater stretches on the barren tundra to ice-cold streams cutting through the heat of red-rock canyons and sagebrush. These are all steelhead waters, and not coincidentally, places I love dearly.”

In the case of Tomine’s beloved sport, nonetheless, steelhead fly-fishing provides a stark warning. “When the resource you love starts to go, it can go really fast,” he stated.


Dylan Tomine, Patagonia Books, 304 pp., $27.95

Tomine will focus on the ebook in an occasion at 6 p.m. April 14 at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island. Free; registration required; see

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