The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is an iconic species among fly anglers and cold-water conservationists in eastern North America. This fish registers as a powerful symbol for its beauty and its imagery in art and literature. Its presence also tells us a great deal about the health of the larger environment. When an angler has a brook trout in hand, there is confidence that the water is close to pristine.
Besides being an important indicator species, the brook trout, with its gold and reddish markings and its camouflaged green and black back, is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish in North America. And beyond the beauty of the fish itself, the environment in which it is found is also part of its past and present appeal. To fish for brook trout is often to fish in the last remote and rugged landscapes in the East, “fishscapes” that have not been polluted by stocking trucks that dump nonnative brown and rainbow trout in most of the East’s accessible cold waterways.
“Searching for Home Waters” is part science, part environmental history and part personal journey of the author, Michael K. Steinberg, and those he interviewed during his travels. The work takes a broad perspective that examines the status of brook trout in the eastern United States, employing a “landscape” approach. In other words, brook trout do not exist in a vacuum; they are affected by logging, agriculture, fishing policies, suburban development, mining, air pollution and changing weather. Thus, while the book focuses specifically on the status and management of the brook trout—from Georgia to Labrador—it also tells the larger story of the status of the eastern environment. As a “pilgrimage,” this book is also a journey of the heart and contains Steinberg’s personal reflections on his relationship with the brook trout and its geography.