by Whit Gibbons

December 14, 2014

When I read that Jim Mize’s book “A Creek Trickles through It” (2014) was published by the Almost Literary Press, I figured the book would be humorous. After reading the 169-page collection of fishing tales told by a consummate fly fisherman I discovered that my prediction was correct: the book is quite humorous.

But the 46 short chapters about fishing mishaps and adventures offer more than humor. Many of them are personal assessments on fish and people that provide insight into the importance of anglers’ attitudes toward the environment and life in general.

People who like to fish sometimes seem obsessed with the idea of “going fishing,” and to do fishing right you need a clean environment. For instance, a mountain trout stream needs crystal clear water, which means no upstream runoff from mining or other industrial activities.

In fishing a lake for largemouth bass, the angler’s mood is lifted by a shoreline of native willows or bald cypress, which means the peripheral wetland has not been destroyed. Anyone who thrives on going fishing is by nature someone who wants to protect the environment.

Mize’s fish tales provide some wonderful perspectives into how a fishing trip can bring appreciation of the outdoors. He tells of his “minnow bucket list,” which are the fishing experiences from memory that he wants to relive. One of the intriguing ones to me was his wish to “fly fish for trout in a blizzard” again.

He gives an account of walking alone through woods to a mountain lake one afternoon 40 years ago to fish for trout. He recalls the scent of pine trees, the sights and sounds of five white-tail deer topping a ridge in front of him, and the touch of snow as it began to fall. “Each flake fell like a cotton ball, absorbing light and becoming a light in itself.” He continued on, standing on the lake shore casting his lure out of sight into the falling snow.

The notable point of Mize’s story to me is not that he ended up catching six trout that day, as he hardly dwells on the fishing part. The real message is that the beauty of healthy outdoor habitats can be enjoyed just by walking through them or by sitting or standing in them.

A clean natural environment can lead to a peace of mind acquired in no other way. In the scene Mize described, he was “closed in by the snow.” He goes on to say that he would “like to feel that liberating exhilaration of aloneness one more time, immersed in snow and frozen in time.” You don’t have to be a fisherman to appreciate being outdoors under those conditions, as long as you are wearing warm clothes, like fishermen do.

One of the later chapters focuses on Mize’s many cold weather trout fishing adventures from the mountains of Virginia to frozen streams in the Rockies. Again, his intent was always to go trout fishing, but the aspect of each experience that made it memorable and impressive was not just the surrounding habitat of ice and snow but the overall scene of healthy outdoor environments. Incidentally, apparently even properly dressed fisherman can get too cold. He described one trip to North Carolina after a snowstorm when he was hoping for “a Saint Bernard with a brandy keg under its neck” because, as he says, “I’d lost all feeling in my feet.”

The book received first place in the excellence-in-craft award of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association for the best outdoor book of the year. Gift-giving season is upon us and one of Jim’s books would be an excellent choice for anyone who appreciates nature and would like to see it through the eyes of an outdoor humorist and trout fisherman. Check out his website at www.acreektricklesthroughit.com. Mize also received an excellence-in-craft award for one of his previous books, “The Winter of Our Discount Tent.” Humor is clearly a trademark of Mize’s work.

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