Published Jan 11. 2024 - 1 month ago
Updated or edited Jan 17. 2024

Book review: The Sage of Dibbin Creek

A capturing and sometimes touching novel about a young boy whose life is formed by farming, outdoors activities and fishing

Dee Dauphinee
Kicking Pig Press
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

Dee Dauphinee (formal name Denis), contacted me a while back, asking me if I wanted to read his latest book “The Sage of Dibbin Creek”. As you know I’m a book worm, and if there’s a chance to read a book with some fishing in focus – fly fishing in particular – I’m pretty quick to confirm my interest.
I got the book as a PDF preview as it’s often the case these days. For a novel like this, that’s OK. I often read on my tablet, which does a fair job of presenting text and smaller images, and that’s exactly what’s found in this book.
So I loaded the book onto the electronics, and one evening i December I dived into it.
I was done one day later!
I read the whole book in two sittings.
Now, it’s not a huge book, and I’m a fast reader, but it still rarely happens that I read 200 pages in two sittings, which just serves to tell you that I was seriously drawn into this story.

The book is about Sam, who lives on a farm in rural USA. Sam is a young boy, eleven years old when we meet him in the early 70’s. He has lost his father when he was five, and now lives on a farm with his mother, the two of them running it in the absence of the dad and husband. There’s a friend of the house, Teri, who is almost like a third family member and who also helps, but the main workforce is the mother helped by Sam. Running a farm two people is hard work, so Sam’s spare time is limited by farm and school chores.

The spare time he has, he uses outdoors where he fishes and observes nature. In the course of the book he also develops an interest in other activities, mainly building shelters and, in the end, building a small log cabin.

Page sample - The Sage of Dibbin Creek
Page sample - The Sage of Dibbin Creek
Dee Dauphinee

In the beginning of the book, Sam’s a spin and worm fisher, and his access to the local stream is limited by how far he is allowed to go from the farm. He catches trout and chub in a slower stretch of the river, but is drawn by the faster water and bigger trout outside his river range.
He happens to meet an older angler, Alton Sands, and that meeting marks a turning point in his life. Alton – Al for short – is a fly fisher, and teaches Sam to flyfish. Al is also able to teach Sam many other things, and the development of the mentorship and their friendship is the central part of the story.
Sam has trouble reading, which is very well illustrated in a “break out” sequence where the story – which is otherwise told by Sam – suddenly changes and is seen by an outside observer, witnessing the struggle that Sam has in school because of his dyslexia.
Al used to be a teacher, and helps Sam get better and more confident at reading – as well as many other things, including fly fishing.

That’s about as many details as you get from me regarding this small gem of a story. As I said, I swallowed it in two bites, which I think stands as a testament to its ability to draw in the reader – at least this reader.
The arc of the story and the development of the characters – Sam in particular – is captivating, and it flows in such a way that you feel compelled to read what happens next and how things end, whether it’s building shelters in the forest, learning to cast or tie, getting better at reading or, as mentioned, planning and building a log cabin in the woods.
Friendships develop, and even though the characters have their conflicts, there’s little drama, and this is mainly a feel-good story. While you may think that this leads to something, which is easy to predict, that’s not the case. This is no thriller by any means, but it does offer excitement and plot twists in its own quiet way.

Another thing that I found particularly rewarding is the way that knowledge and skills are woven into the story. You will mot likely learn something underway. Together with Sam you get educated in outdoor skills, tools, entomology and even a bit of farming and shoestring economy. For some this may be a bit too educational, but I certainly enjoyed these facts and little details. Things are explained to you as they are to Sam, whose age and experience means that it’s got to be easy to understand. In that way the reader learns about hatches, oxygenated water, log drying, debarking tools and much more. All this feels like a natural part of the story, and a part that I at least found very satisfying.

Page sample - The Sage of Dibbin Creek
Page sample - The Sage of Dibbin Creek
Dee Dauphinee

In the very opposite end of the scale are the emotional parts, which I found equally satisfying and – as I mentioned in the beginning – also touching. The relations between Sam and his mother, the mother and the deceased father, Sam and Al, Teri and everybody else leads to some really beautiful scenes, which are important to the story and character development, and which actually brought tears to my eyes a couple of times while reading.

It may be me who’s getting old and sentimental (actually, it’s not ... old maybe, but I’m pretty pragmatic), but this was a really nice reading experience, and one that I can warmly recommend. Well written, humble and without big drama. As I said: a feel-good story. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling good, is there?


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