PNBA BESTSELLER • “A powerful and inspiring story. Guido Rahr’s mission to save the wild Pacific salmon leads him into adventures that make for a breathtakingly exciting read.”—Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
Editors’ Choice: The New York Times Book Review • Outside Magazine • National Book Review • Forbes
In the tradition of Mountains Beyond Mountains and The Orchid Thief, Stronghold is Tucker Malarkey’s eye-opening account of one of the world’s greatest fly fishermen and his crusade to protect the world’s last bastion of wild salmon. From a young age, Guido Rahr was a misfit among his family and classmates, preferring to spend his time in the natural world. When the salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest began to decline, Guido was one of the few who understood why. As dams, industry, and climate change degraded the homes of these magnificent fish, Rahr saw that the salmon of the Pacific Rim were destined to go the way of their Atlantic brethren: near extinction.
An improbable and inspiring story, Stronghold takes us on a wild adventure, from Oregon to Alaska to one of the world’s last remaining salmon strongholds in the Russian Far East, a landscape of ecological richness and diversity that is rapidly being developed for oil, gas, minerals, and timber. Along the way, Rahr contends with scientists, conservationists, Russian oligarchs, corrupt officials, and unexpected allies in an attempt to secure a stronghold for the endangered salmon, an extraordinary keystone species whose demise would reverberate across the planet.
Tucker Malarkey, who joins Rahr in the Russian wilderness, has written a clarion call for a sustainable future, a remarkable work of natural history, and a riveting account of a species whose future is closely linked to our own.
Praise for Stronghold
“This book isn’t just about fish, it’s about life itself and the fragile unseen threads that connect all creatures across this beleaguered orb we call home. Guido Rahr’s quest to save the world’s wild salmon should serve as an inspiration—and a provocation—for us all, and Tucker Malarkey’s exquisite book captures Rahr’s weird and wonderful story with poignancy, humor, and grace.”—Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice and Blood and Thunder
“A crazy-good, intensely lived book that reads like an international thriller—only it’s our beloved salmon playing the part of diamonds or oil or gold.”—David James Duncan, author of The River Why and The Brothers K
In this captivating narrative, novelist Malarkey (An Obvious Enchantment) explores global salmon conservation through the prism of her enigmatic cousin Guido Rahr. A master fly fisherman, Rahr realized in 1989 the steelhead and salmon he adored were becoming extinct. Transforming from a fishing bum into a Yale-educated environmentalist, he created the Wild Salmon Center nonprofit to preserve "stronghold" rivers unspoiled by human development found in only a few places, most notably Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. Rahr's passion for the outdoors and dogged pursuit of sponsors puts him in the company of such notables as Harrison Ford and Ted Turner as well as fearsome Russian oligarchs all of whom are charmed by the fly fisherman's objective to save fish and wildlife habitat and allows him to gain entr e to untouched rivers and experience the "sacred moment" of catching an elusive 70-pound taimen. Political corruption and Russian gamesmanship, however, end his organization's work in the country, but its "conservation wins" include aiding in getting "over 70 percent of Russian salmon fisheries MSC certified" and "the designation of six new national or regional parks in salmon strongholds." Malarkey effortlessly glides between topics, making for an excellent mix of adventure, geopolitical deal making, and ecological and environmental reporting.