Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

“Keeper” is just that.

When I received my copy of Martin Donovan’s book Keeper, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I am delighted to report that is one of the more entertaining fishing books I have ever read.

“Donny” as he is affectionately known, tells tales of growing up in Southhampton, England and how his world travels lead him back to the river Test.  He lands a job, first as an underkeeper then as the riverkeeper, on the Nursling beat. He eventually moves his family to the Whitchurch beat where he serves as riverkeeper today.

Riverkeepers on England’s fabled chalk streams are a mixture of guide, conservationist, warden and gardener. Donovan’s story telling, mixed with his wry English wit, make the reading quite a pleasure.

Cover Image

Donovan thoughtfully opens the book with guide to the Queen’s English which helps explains the some of the odd expressions and set the stage for much of Donovan’s entertaining prose.

Keeper is populated with some exceptional characters adding depth and color to Donovan’s narratives. The fishers, poachers, keepers, townspeople and friends help create texture and substance to each story as foils and supporting actors.

Each chapter offers a story in and of itself with the early chapters providing a wonderful view of Donovan’s journey to the Test. Once he is in residence on the Test the stories turn to the trials and tribulations of keeper on this fabled chalk stream.

While the humor makes the stories eminently readable there are great insights into the role of keeper as a steward of the resource and the sport. Those insights make Keeper live up to its title in more ways than one.

You can get a copy of Keeper from Departure Publishing.

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