Back Issue Content: 2013

Pride of the Quinault: Huge, Winter-Run Steel

Years before I saw either a steelhead or the Quinault River, they were twin obsessions dominating my imagination. I would eventually come to meet both, but at different times in my life, and under very different circumstances.

BEFORE THE EARLY 1990s it was impossible to catch steelhead on a fly rod, and certainly not using a floating line and a single-handed rod. We just couldn’t get our small flies deep enough, we couldn’t cast them far enough, and we all just stood there wishing we had a center pin and roe sacks, because flyfishing for steelhead was hopeless.

A summertime story for the mid-winter blues.

IT STARTS IN HIGH SUMMER, in Labrador, that land of windswept crags, quaking bogs, and enthusiastic blackflies. “The land God gave to Cain,” as the explorer, Cartier, described it. Well, it is my sincere hope that the sumbitch took along a fly rod.

I sure did. I’m on assignment, chasing down a mineral prospector who hit it big—really big—when he stumbled upon what would eventually become the world’s richest nickel mine. He’s done various things with his considerable dough. One of them: A lodge on the Hunt River in northern Labrador, just 70 miles or so from the spot of his fortunate discovery. The man is wholly obsessed with fishing. After hearing about his annual fishing program—three months in Labrador chasing Atlantic salmon, six months hunting tarpon in the Keys—it’s unclear to me how exactly he manages to run his various mining businesses and venture capital funds. The man is from Newfoundland, and he fishes in the willful manner characteristic of folks from his island. He does not like to rotate through pools, preferring instead to find a fish he favors, then casting over it until he or the fish succumbs. He once spent nine straight hours on a single fish, pausing only to sip water. He eventually landed the 25-pound Atlantic.