Not many writers of angling literature, or even of environmental literature, are as respected as conservationist and fly fisher Roderick Haig-Brown. His observations of the physical world provoke a depth of reflection that those of few other literary figures do. One of the reasons for this may be that his observations are almost always tied to the passage of time–the passage of a day, the turning of a season, or even the growth of his children. In  A River Never Sleeps, published in 1946, Haig-Brown ties his observations to the months. An excerpt from “January” follows.


A River Never Sleeps, Easton edition, below my favorite art from Michael Simon.

It is easy to forget about the river in winter, particularly if you are a trout fisherman and live in town. Even when you live in the country, close beside it, a river seems to hold you off a little in winter, closing itself into the murky opacity of freshet or slipping past ice-fringed banks in shrunken, silent flow. The weather and the season have their effect on the observer too, closing him into himself, allowing him to glance only quickly with a careless, almost hostile, eye at the runs and pools that give summer delight. And probably his eyes are on the sky for flight of ducks or geese or turned landward on the work of his dogs. Unless he is a winter fisherman, he is not likely to feel the intimate, probing, summer concern with what is happening below the surface.


Idaho’s Clearwater, in January

Edit/Further thoughts:

I realize now that “observations” is the wrong word for Haig-Brown’s writings. Rather, his essays are recordings of interactions with the physical world. For him, the landscape is a character (or a chorus of characters). This sounds trite, but I mean it in a literal sense: for Haig-Brown, the landscape is an acting subject, not a passive object. Thus, he does not simply observe it. Rather, he interacts with it. Of course, the subjecthood of the “natural” environment is not merely a literary invention on Haig-Brown’s part. Indeed, the landscape acts upon all of us, and all of us act upon it. Haig-Brown is simply one of the rare members of Euro-American society to recognize this fact. This is all the more reason for readers to admire the work of this great man, who passed decades ago.

3 Responses to “Time”

  1. Bob Stanton Says:

    I agree. Haig-Brown is the penultimate conservationist/fly fishing writer. His prose has all the richness and imagery of verse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tamaracksguideservice Says:


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kenov Says:

    For some reason, it took me a while to warm up to him. Maybe it was moving to steelhead country that made the difference or perhaps even getting older. Regardless, it’s great stuff.


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