Back Issue Content: 2009

The view from between my wading boots couldn’t be better: a good-looking drift boat anchored in the eddy, a cooler full of barley pops sitting nearby on the gravel bar, the river burbling beyond. Hell, I think I just saw a rise on the far side. But there is very little that could motivate me to do anything beyond taking it all in at the moment, my ass velcroed to the gravel bar as it is. If “idle hands are the Devil’s tools,” as they say, then this beer I’m currently grasping is Baelzebub’s rotary sander. Inertia is as addictive as Xanax.

When you first climb up there, scrambling over the bait well to your perch above the Baja blue, the bow of a panga feels like love itself beneath the soles of your naked feet—warm, slippery, perilous, unstable. The sea, you sense, lies at your command; the authority seems daunting, then reckless, even appalling. For at some point you recognize the earth is round, spinning, hurtling through space—and you are but bobbing on a liquid membrane sloshing this way and that in direct response to the sun, the moon, the wind, the gods.

Steelhead Highways
Image: Tim Scott
  1. Hwy 101, from Northern California to Port Angeles, Washington. No stretch of highway in the country crosses more prime steelhead water than this one. Start on California’s Klamath or Smith, then head up to Oregon’s Rogue or the great Tillamook Bay rivers like the Trask and Wilson, and then finish up on the drippy Washington classics of Olympic National Park, like the Hoh or Sol Duc.
  2. Interstate 90, from Buffalo, New York, to Chicago. If you must take a freeway to fish, make it this one. Criticize Eastern steelheading if you want, but catch rates on New York’s Lake Erie tribs like Chautauqa Creek or Cattaraugus Creek blow doors off most of those out West. In the words of Rick Kustich, “If you steelhead in New York, you’ve spent hours looking out the windshield at the long, straight, boring thoroughfare that is the New York State Thruway.” And Ohio? Easily America’s most underrated steelhead state.
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