Book recommendation: An Entirely Synthetic Fish

Over a year ago I wrote haphazardly about Anders Halverson’s book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World. By haphazardly I mean I mentioned it, and speculated what the message of the book was. Without having read the book at the time, I couldn’t be sure of my hypothetic ways, and was really just having a little fun, possibly at the expense of the book itself. No harm in a little Unaccomplished Drivel, right? Nobody takes me seriously anyway.

Over a year later I’m happy to say that I have finally read the book. And I rather enjoyed it. A lot.  It wasn’t what I expected, and yet it was. By that I mean the scope of the book was what I expected. It tells of the rainbow trout’s history as a mass-produced hatchery product that was shipped out across the country and stocked in places far from it’s native range. The book is a historical recount of how this all began and how man interfered with nature (surprise!) and screwed things up royally for native species along the way.  But the book was more than I expected because it was highly entertaining and interesting to read. It talks about why sportfishing has been such an important part of American history. If it weren’t so sad, the detailed mention of certain historical debacles as pertaining to fish management would be nearly laugh-out-loud funny: Hatchery trucks with sirens so anglers knew when and where fresh rainbow trout were being dumped into the water…come on, that’s good stuff right there! Can’t you just imagine a bunch of fishermen chasing the hatchery truck like a bunch of kids running after the Ice Cream van and it winds through their neighborhood?

The book was published in 2010, and has since won a National Outdoor Book Award. Much of the initial fanfare surrounding the release of a book may have already taken place so many reviews can be found. I am not classifying this as a review, but I am definitely calling it a book recommendation. From cover to cover this book is a great read; it’s interesting and entertaining. You’ll gain a certain appreciation for the the rainbow trout and a better understanding of the history of trout fishing in America. You’ll also come away with a head-shaking awareness of how far we’ve come in many ways, and how far we have to go in others.

Get this book. You’ll be glad you did.

4 thoughts on “Book recommendation: An Entirely Synthetic Fish”

  1. Jay says:

    That’s a book I’ve been wanting to read. Now that it has the Unaccomplished stamp of approval, I’ll put a little more effort into securing a copy.
    Thanks for reminding me about this title.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Glad to provide the reminder, Jay, although you know that the UA Stamp of Approval should be taken with a grain of salt (although in this case, salt is not needed). Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Tony says:

    I like your post, and the book sounds intriguing. Is it political, or more conservation minded? Growing up in northern Utah with rainbows, I always figured they were naturals, not transplants.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Tony, first off thanks for stopping by. The book is very much conservation-slanted. It talks of debacles and mistakes but does so in a neutral sorta way. I didn’t get the sense that it’s propaganda in anyway, although by virtue of the facts reported you may see that it does make a statement. Great read. Historically very interesting as well. I’m sure a lot of people across the continent and world think that rainbows are native. Far from the truth, far from their native waters.

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