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In these stories, popular Chicago Tribune outdoor columnist Bill Stokes gives himself over to his true passion, trout fishing. It is an activity, possibly a madness, that moves him, time and again, to stand knee-deep in cold and murky waters, offer himself up to clouds of hungry mosquitoes, and attempt to keep from snagging his line in overhanging limbs while trying to outwit a wily rainbow or brook trout. And then remembering where the car is parked. All trout anglers will, like Stephen Born, revel in these evocative and entertaining stories.
There’s no doubt that Stokes has created a wonderful literary catch for his fellow fishing enthusiasts with plenty of Trout fishing tips but as he himself points out, we all understand that fishing is not really about catching fish. He knows that the nuances in any life are more often than not arbitrary, especially the crucial ones, and herein lies the allure of Trout Friends and Other Riff-Raff. Through twenty-three timely reflections, he takes us beyond Trout bait and we're treated to a glimpse of a life that is grounded in traditional family values, with a heavy emphasis on morals, character and a love of nature. Coaxing us one step at a time into poignant moments that are steeped in reflection and acerbic observation Stokes moves us with his self-effacing humour as he invites us to reflect on life in our latter years and the formative ones that shaped us. On loves, friendships, loss and those more elusive things that linger in our thoughts as time goes by. On this level, Stokes prose are an absolute treasure because we believe in the authenticity of his stories. Yes, on the face of it he has penned a great book about Trout fishing in America and there will be many a knowing nod from those who share his passion, but ultimately his reflections are about staying grounded in an ever changing world and the lessons we can pass on from one generation to the next.
Charming, humorous and heart-warming Trout Friends and Other Riff-Raff proves a smoothly crafted and entertaining read that will engender much thought. A fine introduction to the words and works of a unique literary voice, it is recommended without reservation.
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"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
Vincent Van Gogh
Born in Barron, Wisconsin, on September 11, 1931, Bill Stokes grew up on a small dairy farm between Barron and Rice Lake. He began his official writing career as an outdoor writer and general reporter for the Stevens Point Daily Journal, where he served as columnist, reporter and outdoor writer. In 1961 he moved to the Wisconsin State Journal, in Madison, where he wrote outdoor and personal columns, some of which were collected in a book “Ship The Kids On Ahead.” (added by Bill Stokes). In 1969, the Milwaukee Journal became his venue and as a feature writer and columnist, and he found new ground to cover in 1982 at the Chicago Tribune. After 11 years there, Bill retired to pursue free-lance projects.