Reading With Lee Spencer

Another night, another great book event at Patagonia Ballard: So much of the fish conservation work we do involves theoretical, or “paper” fish. We work on populations, runs sizes, escapement goals, and deal with government policies and legal angles. Last night, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening reading from and talking with Lee Spencer about his beautiful book, A Temporary Refuge, and a very different kind of fish conservation.

Lee is the guy who, for the last 19 seasons, has stood (or sat) guard over 150 to 500 extremely vulnerable wild summer steelhead as they seek thermal refuge in a cool-water pool of a North Umpqua tributary. You might have seen him in DamNation. His presence deters poachers, who, in the past, used explosives to harvest these fish, earning the pool the local name “The Dynamite Hole.” Lee’s work is fish conservation in its truest sense–personal, specific, intimate. Lee stays, and the fish are not blown up.

But Lee is more than just a guardian; he is an observer, writer and thinker of the highest order. His field notes, taken over the days and years he’s spent quietly watching the pool and its fish, written in clean, deceptively simple prose, make a gem of a book. Talking with him before, during, and at dinner after the event, was even better.

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