The  Sensual  Fish

Montana State University Library’s Annual Trout and Salmonid Lecture 

James Thull

It’s almost spring again and that means anglers are getting ready to get their lines in some of the pristine trout fishing waters around Bozeman. It also means it is time again for the MSU Trout and Salmonid Lecture. Our lecturer this year is acclaimed writer and professor of English, Henry Hughes. The title of his talk is “The Sensual Fish: A Playful and Scholarly Evening.” It will be held at 7 p.m. on April 2, at the Rialto in downtown Bozeman. As always, the lecture is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow. 

Through fishing, Hughes crosses boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, and class, and learns important life lessons as he interacts with people who share his love of fishing and enjoy the sensual connection between the salty pleasures and tensions of human and fish life. 

“This year we’re trying something completely different with the Trout Lecture,” said MSU Library Dean Kenning Arlitsch. “Henry is an engaging speaker, and we look forward to his exploration of literature, art and popular culture at the confluence of piscine and human existence.” 

Hughes grew up on Long Island, New York, and has lived in Oregon since 2002 where he’s a professor of literature and writing at Western Oregon University. He is the author of four collections of poetry, including the Oregon Book Award -winning Men Holding Eggs. His memoir, Back Seat with Fish: A Man’s Adventures in Angling and Romance, was published in 2016 by Skyhorse. 

An active angler, naturalist, and literary critic, Hughes edited the Everyman’s Library anthologies Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing and Fishing Stories. His essays and reviews appear regularly in the Flyfishing and Tying Journal and Harvard Review
“There’s something inherently sensuous and sensual about fish.” said Hughes. “Cleopatra likens seducing Antony to angling for ‘tawny-finned fishes,’ and the poet Lorca casts for a ‘brunette of Granada . . . who will not bite.’ I look forward to discussing this delightfully slippery world at the Trout Lecture.” 

Through the annual Trout Lecture, the library strives to speak to all aspects of trout and salmonids and to represent the diversity of angling culture. “Henry’s stories aren’t just for people who fish,” said Arlitsch. “They’re for anyone who enjoys human connection and a good story.” RSVPs to the lecture are encouraged. Guests may register by calling 406-994-6857 on online at

Lecture Series
The lecture is sponsored as a part of the Trout and Salmonid Library at MSU Library and has hosted authors, politicians, artists, and scientists.
It is made possible through the generous contributions of donors. Past speakers have included:

Nathaniel Reed - Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks under Presidents Nixon and Ford. Nathaniel helped write some of the most important environmental legislation ever enacted, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act.

James Prosek - Author of several books including Trout of the World and Early Love and Brook Trout. James is an acclaimed artist and angler who has fished the world over. 

Dan Wenk - Recently retired Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. Dan is a lifelong angler who has worked tirelessly, and often without the gratitude he deserves, to help preserve and provide a sanctuary for our native cutthroats and grayling. 

Tom McGuane -Award winning local author, rancher, screenwriter and angler. Tom was recently presented with the Heritage Award by the American Museum of Fly Fishing.

Jeremy Wade - Jeremy is the host of Animal Planet’s River Monsters. Jeremy has fished the world over and seen more interesting things on the end of his line than likely any other angler alive. 

Martha Williams - Current director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). Martha served as legal counsel for FWP from 1998 to 2011; taught natural resource law, public land and resources law, and wildlife law at UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law; co-directed UM’s Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic; and worked as the deputy solicitor at the U.S. Department of Interior.

Print Collections

In addition to the lecture series, the library houses the world’s largest collection of materials on trout and salmonids. The print collection numbers over 13,000 volumes and includes over 600 periodicals from around the world, a rare volume signed by Izaak Walton, and the first book to mention fishing in the new world published in 1521.  

The collection aims to collect, preserve, and disseminate information on all aspects related to trout and salmonids. In house it is called the six-degrees of trout and salmon. It means the library collects anything (and I mean anything) related to these species. This includes children’s books, fishing regulations, guide books, maps, government information, fly-tying manuals, etc. The collection is unique because researchers can come in and find materials on almost anything they need information about. If they want to look at children’s books from the early 1900s they can. If they want to look at poetry or copies of the Izaak Walton’s Complete Angler from 1740 on, they can do so.

MSU also holds the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of angling-related archival collections. The primary source, original documents are one-of–a-kind and can be viewed in person at the MSU Special Collections library, which is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Many local anglers, guides, and authors are represented, including Paul Schullery, Datus Proper, Bud Lilly, Bob Jacklin, Craig and Jackie Mathews, George Grant, and Sylvester Nemes. In addition to local celebrities, the archive is also home to the papers of Adriano Manocchia, John Gierach, Ed Engle, Dave Hughes, Robert Benhke, Tom Alkire, Nick Lyons, and Charlie Brooks. 

Angling Oral History Project
The Angling Oral History Collections aim is to capture the culture, knowledge and history of angling in our time on a global scale. The collection was started only four years ago and has grown to include nearly 300 interviews with artists, government employees, scientists, fly tiers, and anglers from across the world. The Willow Springs Foundation funded the project with a grant that has allowed MSU to collect interviews in over 45 countries on six continents. The database is housed at and is freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.   

Ann Vinciguerra is the events and communications coordinator at MSU Library. James Thull is the Special Collections Librarian at MSU-Bozeman.