A fishing trip becomes an opportunity for reflections on family heritage and life’s meaning in this debut memoir.
In 2012, while hundreds of miles from his Minnesota home, Dincau, who’d recently recovered from a potentially lethal blood clot, found himself pondering life’s significance and what he valued most. This led him to ruminations on the pleasures of childhood trout-fishing trips that he took with his grandfather; he writes, for instance, of savoring sugary cereal that he ate out of his grandfather’s tin bowls before heading out on the river. After these memories, Dincau fell asleep and had a dream that provides the centerpiece of this volume. In it, he took a seemingly endless, energetic fishing excursion on the Flag River in northern Wisconsin with his son, Alex; his brother, Jeff; and his nephew, Drew. Hankering for a good haul of trout, the men set out and worked their way upstream to pools and holes where fish might linger. But they also embarked with equal enthusiasm on a journey through their family’s history, swapping stories of relatives and tips about fishing techniques. As the narrator, Dincau repeatedly invokes the unnerving but also gratifying feeling of recalling an anecdote in the location where it took place; his predecessors, he notes, preferred to fish on the Flag River and taught him their craft there. Although the pace often drags, his careful reconstruction of dialogue keeps things afloat, revealing the fishing trip not as a rote ritual but as an event full of lively knowledge, history, and tradition. The author’s tone is folksy and personable, if sometimes saccharine, and features unpredictable phrases, such as when he describes a recurrent conversation growing on him “like a comfortable beard.” Although this memoir is ostensibly about Midwest trout fishing and family life, its underlying backbone is its almost Proustian curiosity about memory, time, and death and its search for vindication of one’s existence in the natural order.
An intimate, entrancing sketch of a family that found joy and affirmation in nature.