TROUT CULTURE: AN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF FISHING IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN WEST, 1860 TO 1975
Brown, Jennifer Corrinne
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Fly fishing, like other aspects of the romanticized American West, has taken on a larger-than-life appearance. It seems wonderfully simple, however, the imagery of fly fishing suggests more than just a sport but rather a religious experience, a transformative western adventure and, mainly, a nostalgic and simplified view of the past. "Trout Culture" unravels the history of this creation of place, starting from the 1860s with early trout introductions and state regulations of the territorial period and ending with the modern environmental movement and the wild trout era of the 1960s and 1970s, when anglers and managers started to dismantle the western hatchery system. Placed in this time period, the iconography of regional fly fishing and the nostalgia for majestic trout streams emerges not as a timeless feature of the West, but rather as the product of anglers, fisheries managers, tourists, guides, local businesses, and regional boosters and their century-long profound manipulation of the Rocky Mountain environment. This study moves beyond purely local and regional stories to explain how local, national, and even transnational forces constructed and reconstructed Rocky Mountain trout fisheries over time. To understand the Rocky Mountain trout culture as a story of shifting meanings and practices, this dissertation shows the crucial importance of focusing on appropriate scales of power and influence in order to add new strength to the field of western history, helping to undermine the provincial aspects of past scholarship. Local and regional people and places, as this study demonstrates, often importantly mediated national and international conservation practices, creating a new way of viewing western conservation that advances recent interpretations by showing how locals shaped state power and conservation. The contemporary struggles of conservationists and fisheries managers to save dozens of native fish species throughout the Rocky Mountains demands a need to reexamine this trout culture and its environmental consequences. With large profits and a dependent regional economy, the tourism and recreation industry provides little incentive to reevaluate the region's problematic association with nonnative trout, even with current scientific and ethical concerns about declines in native species and preserving biodiversity.