Dispatches from the Madison Valley


Pleasant ramblings among the woods and trout streams of southwest Montana.

Flowing between the Rockies outside Yellowstone National Park, the Madison River is a Mecca for fly fishermen, and the little town of Ennis is its epicenter. There, for the last 20-odd years, Leeson (English/Oregon State Univ.; The Orvis Guide to Tackle Care and Repair, 2006, etc.) has been summering with a group of friends, who each bring a dash of offbeat philosophy to the conversation. Leeson’s own philosophizing tends to take place out on the water. On those who hog the best fishing holes, the author writes, “Between you passes a wordless acknowledgment that some people are simply assholes and there’s no future in getting worked up about it.” True enough, and it’s refreshing to see the sentiment phrased so plainly. Leeson is easily peeved, though, and sometimes uselessly so. He snipes, for instance, at hapless tourists who embody “the essence of ranch-skank couture.” The masters of literary fishing—Kittredge, Harrison, Chatham—are rarely so ungallant, and the occasional mean-spiritedness diminishes the book. But Leeson makes up for it with contemplative moments (“No one should kill a trout without a sense of having diminished the world’s quotient of wildness”), good talks over good food and even a few angling tips. He also offers hard-earned observations on the ways of rivers and river folk—including a clever reckoning of the differences between young anglers and old geezers, the latter of whom are likely to “get a little persnickety about fishing.”

A good book to have in the tackle box for quiet moments and a welcome addition to the literature of fishing and Montana alike.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60239-796-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2009


NonfictionJERUSALEM CREEK by Ted Leeson
by Ted Leeson
NonfictionTHE GIFT OF TROUT by Ted Leeson
by Ted Leeson
NonfictionTHE HABIT OF RIVERS by Ted Leeson
by Ted Leeson