Singular and bold in conception, unrivaled in breadth and tenacity of execution, and artfully and comprehensively documented in The Dying Fish, Cedric Keith’s solo adventure over the entire range of the Eastern Brook Trout is both high adventure and a startlingly high-minded quest after ideas. Having covered on foot the hundreds of lonely, rich miles of a remote yet nearly contiguous wilderness habitat – all the way from the Appalachians of Georgia to the crossroads of Maine and New Brunswick – Mr. Keith has written a unique book. It is part memoir and spiritual autobiography, part treatise on natural history, part quotidian journal of an astounding wilderness trek conducted over the course of years, part guide to backwoods skills and lore, part reflection on American past and American future, and astonishing amalgam which questions many unchallenged environmental and political paradigms. The Dying Fish is all these things. And it is also something else – it is a work of literature free from the cant of colleges and institutions. Mr. Keith is that extremely rare find in an increasingly and lamentably over-certified world: the great self-made and self-taught man. He tells us what he has seen, tells us what he has learned from wilderness, from direct experience. If a whaleship was Melville’s Harvard and Yale College, this latter day Wildman, Cedric Keith, has brought us his hard facts from field and stream, from valley and mountaintop, from firsthand adventures that nearly push one to despair, only to subsequently catapult one to exultation. The Dying Fish will make one proud of the idea of America, thrilled to learn that the wilderness is growing, and grateful that a Cedric Keith has returned from the woods, taken up his pen, and laid bare all this wild glory.
pianist, author, professor
The project that came to be known as the “Eastern Brook Trout Solo Adventure” was a series of five long hikes through the finest speckled trout habitat in the eastern U.S. I stopped from time to time at randomly selected streams where I’d determine presence or absence of the fish and assess the qualities of the habitat, working from my backpack and living alone in the forest. The study attempted to describe the qualities of the best brook trout waters while the adventure sprung from daily interaction with the unpredictable paths of the Appalachian Mountains. The reader will encounter Salvelinus fontinalis on more intimate terms than any other character but by the time we reach the St. John River, the reader will be familiar with a few men who know nothing better than wandering the earth, the researchers who’s fingers are ever on the pulse of the aquatic realm and a sprinkling of representative wayfarers who cross my path during their brief deviations from pavement.
Please join me in the mountains and in “The Dying Fish” for an unconventional look at the eastern brook trout thriving still in the wildest places.