When Mark Dickerson retired as a mill worker in Eugene and moved to the central Oregon coast, he thought life would be “sweet and simple” with fishing or boating every day. That life of being a retiree without a care in the world changed when this recession hit hard in 2008. Back then my wife Hailey was still working, and I was busy with my boat taking people out fishing. Hailey was laid-off 14 months ago, and people can’t afford fishing excursions. Now, I’m almost broke and having to sell my boat,” says Dickerson with a take no-bull reply. However, things are starting to change, explained Dickerson during a recent Huliq interview while fishing at an area lake. “People want to go fishing again. I guess it means the economy is getting better? Maybe they simply need to get out and enjoy nature more. Either way, everybody seems to be fishing around the lakes right now.” In turn, Dickerson says he likes to read “Trout Fishing in America,” by the famed Eugene writer Richard Brautigan when out on the lake fishing. “There are so many great fishing stories about Richard that it just adds to the fun when out there ‘fishing’ with him.” Sadly, Brautigan took his life at age 49 on Sept. 14, 1984. Brautigan is best known for his 1967 novel “Trout Fishing in America.”
Brautigan’s fish story still sends chills down one’s spine
One of the joys of fishing, says Eugene local Mark Dickerson, “is sharing it with my kids and grandkids.” For instance, during a recent fishing trip, Dickerson was spotted yelling to his son to “come out on the lake. The fishing’s fine,” with a real hard, solid laugh.
In turn, Dickerson later read one of his favorite fishing stories by Richard Brautigan. “It’s a wonderful fish tale about a fly-fishing trip to a remote stream. And, Richard wrote this story when he was only 17,” explained Dickerson while sipping a cool one and taking a break from a busy day fishing.
“This one really sends chills down one’s spine,” Dickerson adds while thoroughly enjoying the “glorious happiness,” he says of “just fishing and reading Brautigan.”
This Brautigan story begins with this description. “He was all alone several miles from the nearest community and was not having very good luck when he met an old fisherman.”
Brautigan then describes the old man in detail, relating how he told him how to fish the stream and gave him several special flies. Thus, the old man’s advice and flies did the trick, with the story's character “catching many fish.”
“On the way home, he stopped at the local community store for a soda. The young man described his encounter with the old fisherman. The owner new the old man’s name and recognized as a special pattern only he had tied. Then, the store owner informed him that the old man had died several years ago while fishing his favorite pool on his favorite trout steam, the one that this young man had just described to him.”
Trout Fishing in America
Richard Brautigan’s novella “Trout Fishing in America” is not a typical fish story book. Critics say it’s more of an abstract book “without a clear central storyline.”
Instead, this book by local Eugene writer and fishing fan Brautigan, "contains a series of anecdotes broken into chapters, with the same characters often reappearing from story to story,” writes William Hjortsberg in the new book “Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan.”
Hjortsberg also writes that his new book is aimed at "connecting the Brautigan known to his fans with the man who ended his life so abruptly in 1984, revealing the close ties between his writing and the actual events of his life."
In turn, part of Brautigan's life was about fishing in the Eugene area.
While Brautigan's famed book has a fish sounding title, “Trout Fishing in America” is more of “Richard’s masterwork," explains fellow fisherman Mark Dickerson. "I like it because he’s from Eugene and he's a great teller of fish stories."
Also, Dickerson points to Brautigan as "somehow pulling us back to nature and just the joys of fishing and being alive."
"I guess that's why I carry a signed copy of 'Trout Fishing' in my tackle box with me because I know I want to read it again when out on the lake in that peace and quiet," he added during a break from a full morning of fishing recently at a lake outside Eugene.
The joys of fishing can't really be explained
Also, other fans of “Trout Fishing In America,” will tell you that Brautigan shares a lot about the joys of fishing in this famed Sixties book, but it’s more “about the settings and locales that reflect Richard’s childhood in the Eugene area and enjoying the great outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest,” adds Mark.
Moreover, Hjortsberg explains in his new book about Brautigan how the phrase "Trout Fishing in America" is used “in multiple ways: it is the title of the book, a character, a hotel, the act of fishing itself, a modifier (one character is named "Trout Fishing in America Shorty"), etc. Brautigan uses the theme of trout fishing as a point of departure for thinly veiled and often comical critiques of mainstream American society and culture.”
As for those who just think Brautigan’s Sixties writing is just fish stories, fellow Eugene native and a close personal friend of Brautigan – the late writer Ken Kesey – once called Brautigan “an American Basho. “Five hundred years from now,” Kesey observed, “when the rest of us are forgotten, they’ll still be reading Brautigan.”
Image source of Eugene fisherman Mark Dickerson waving to his son and others that “the fishing is fine,” and to join him for a fun free fishing day out on the lake because he asserts: “You really can’t beat the great outdoors.” Photo by Dave Masko