I met James Thull in a stuffy room on the second floor of Montana State University’s library. Shaved head, goatee, Gandhi glasses–he looks as though he just stepped off the set of a white-washed kung-fu flick from the 70s. He would have been cast as the gatekeeper of a secret-holding shrine in some mythical land. Depending on whether or not you’re into fishing, his real job might be more interesting than that of his B-movie character.
James Thull curates and oversees Montana State University’s Trout and Salmonid Collection. Bozeman is widely known as the center of trout culture, and this collection is the area’s final hidden gem. James Thull took me to a locked door which he claimed contained, “the largest collection of materials on the subject of trout and salmonids in the world.” That may sound like a lofty title for a padlocked closet with a bunch of books on fishing, but as I looked around, I was impressed. Every Gray’s Sporting Journal ever published, Gary Borger videos from the early 80s, they even had the first issue of The Drake.
In this episode of The DrakeCast, we dive into the Trout and Salmonid Collection. But we’ll also hear snips and pieces of the collection’s Angling Oral Histories. Thull has traveled the world interview anglers and we’ve put togeher a few audio clips that we found the most poignant. You get to hear the enthusiasm and emotion in the interviewees’ voices as they tell their stories. Listen for the nostalgia in Ed Engle’s voice as he talk about his father. Notice Glenn Brackett’s tone as he explains his newfound approach to angling now that his kids have kids. Hear Esther Lilly fondly recall early motherhood, and listen to the story of the fishing trip that changed AK Best’s life. Click here to listen.
If you are in the Bozeman area and the rivers are all blown to shit, swing by MSU’s Trout and Salmonid Collection and take a peak around. He might even show you Izaak Walton’s signature if you’re real lucky. You can find James Thull’s contact information here.
If you’re interested in hearing more of the Angling Oral Histories, follow this link.