Are Trout South African?
BOOK REVIEWER: Stephen Coan
WHEN this book goes into its second edition, as it surely must, considering it’s an instant South African classic, I hope the publisher revisits the appalling index. Here is a book about trout fishing (among other things), yet none of the rivers mentioned in the text appears in the index. Ditto, many people.
Gripe out the way, now for the book. Duncan Brown is an academic at the University of the Western Cape and he has previously produced works on oral poetry and, closer to the spirit of this book, To Speak of this Land: Identity and Belonging in South Africa and Beyond.
For Brown, trout fishing is a hobby?—?he would probably say a vocation?—?and one he initially resisted writing about, not wanting to make a soothing pastime part of his stressed working world. But this is not an academic book. Subtitled Stories of Fish, People and Places, Brown follows the history of the introduction of trout into this country and uses them to explore issues of biodiversity, conservation and identity, human as well as piscatorial?—?all interspersed with vivid, personal fishing vignettes.
Brown interviews trout giants such as Ed Herbst, Tom Sutcliffe and Wolf Avni, although he seems to have balked at an encounter with Jim Cambray of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, who once declared a war to the death on trout.
So are trout South African? The debate continues, but it seems safe to say they have at least gained permanent-residence status.
An aspect of the book that will appeal to Witness readers is the appearance of several people who have featured in this newspaper over the years, including the aforementioned Avni, the late Bob Crass, and Bill Simson, former manager of the Underberg and Himeville Trout and Fishing Club.
No other sport has thrown up such an impressive body of literature, one that can also be enjoyed by non-fisher folk, such as myself. Now Brown can add his own volume to that august bibliography.
•?Duncan Brown, the author of Are Trout South African?, is among the speakers at this weekend’s Midlands Literary Festival at Yellowwood Café in Howick, launching the proceedings at 9 am on Saturday. Inquiries: Darryl David at firstname.lastname@example.org or 081?391?8689.