TROUT SNOBBBERY by George Jacox Great fishing stories are told on the list, some true, and there is some dense discussion about rods and reels and such, but some of the best talk is about the things that surround our sport and enhance it, and not about the unadorned act of catching fish with feathers and steel. Otherwise sober men and women speak poetry when they describe the allure of cane rods--a pleasure and addiction indulged by only a few of us. I sometimes think the lovers of cane love even the smell of cane rods--laquer and cork, nickel and steel, and the odor of the cane itself--an antique oriental scent, like chests of tea. Whiskey (or whisky, depending upon one's national preference) and the tipples of choice that gladden hearts a world away spin threads that weave, in part, the fabric of our conversations--amber corn aged well, and single malt grown smoky with years, turned in a slow glass lit within by firelight, fellowship, and tales of rivers. Even fewer than the lovers of cane or fine whiskey are the Grailers for native trout. We're here though, and we're a pathetic bunch who own sagging pickup trucks overlaid with dust. Our gasoline credit card bills are horrible. Another of the lotus eaters (we hide our shame in correspondence off-list) once told me that he was deadly tempted to chuck it all, throw a shell on the back of the pickup truck, and wander for years along the far headwaters of distant rivers searching for native trout. Even at a discount for the discontents of middle age, I understood what he was saying and half agreed with it. It was terrifying. Like most obsessions, mine began innocently enough. Years ago, I caught an odd-looking rainbow trout in the high headwaters of a watershed in west-central Idaho, an adult trout with parr marks and a faint "cutthroat" slash. Later reading revealed it to be a redband, an inland rainbow native to the river. I wanted to catch more of them, and so I did and stepped squarely on the road to ruin. The first thing to go was an appreciation for hatchery trout. I quit fishing for the things altogether, and could hardly stand the sight of them. I started fishing for wild trout only, and my bills for gasoline began to climb. Then I discovered the rivers of central Idaho--thousands of miles of them. They wind through forests and wilderness areas and empty east and north into the Salmon River and thence to the lower Snake or run south and west to become larger rivers that empty into the agricultural Snake River of south-central and southwest Idaho. It was a wealth of rivers--more streams than I could fish in a lifetime, and all of them--all of them held westslope cutthroats or bull trout or redbands. I parked at the ends of rutted paths that could hardly be called "roads" and walked wilderness miles to seek out natives. Recently, the wild descendants of introduced trout have begun to look a bit less desirable. The subtle rainbows and browns of Silver Creek are a mighty challenge and lovely to look upon, but at bottom they're beginning to seem fat porkers that are merely "okay". I hardly know where this vexing fixation will end. I've begun to look over the watersheds of Owyhee County in extreme southwest Idaho, haunt of the desert redband, and I see that there are further hundreds of miles to explore, and the tantalizing possibility of Yellowstone cutthroats (early invaders of these watersheds) isolated behind barrier falls from the depredations of redbands, against whom they do not compete well. I want to travel to Thomas Creek off the Bear River in southeast Idaho, even though it's closed to fishing, just to see if I can get a look at a Bonneville cutthroat. Fishing at Mann Lake in Oregon for Lahontan cutthroats is fine, but I feel the entire time I am there the near magnetic pull of the Alvord and Whitehorse Basins--closed basins with no outlet streams (which means isolate populations). Is the Alvord cutthroat really extinct? This is a burning question to me. I recently learned that there are 126 such closed basins in the Intermountain west, and at least 20 of them have not even had an accurate geological survey. This is very serious news. The lovers of cane and the lovers of ancient whiskey find satisfaction in the trappings that surround fly fishing, and many will accept nothing less than the finest expressions of their chosen obsessions. It would dilute their pleasure. Some wouldn't fish if they had to use a graphite rod. Others wouldn't drink whiskey if it was younger than they were. Some people might scoff at them for snobs. Not me. I'm in peril of becoming a trout snob. The real danger to trout snobbery is that it's ultimately more expensive than cane or whiskey. Like any grail-seeking, it requires that the seeker throw over everything, load up the horse (or the pickup truck) and wander the wilderness for years in holy quest. ....Anyone know where I can get a good deal on a camper shell?