The Road Less Traveled
I remember it like it was yesterday, the first time I looked over the edge of the steep hillside behind my Parents home and saw hundreds of dime bright “Skamania” strain Steelhead holding at the mouth of a small creek flowing into a reservoir on the St. Joseph River in Southwest Michigan. To a small child whom had spent thousands of hours fishing from his dock and catching the occasional Panfish or Bass, it was as if I had just stepped off the edge of the Earth and directly into Heaven. I couldn’t believe this place existed just a short walk from my back door. It was the mid 90’s and this was my introduction to what would become a life long obsession. Exploring new places in search of the wildest creature I’ve ever known, Steelhead.
The longer the journey to reach remote and rugged places in search of these creatures, the better. What began with exploring places I could hike or ride a bike to from my Parents home or from my Grandparents home near the famed Pere Marquette River, turned into day trips and eventually multi-day trips all over Michigan once I was old enough to drive and has since taken me all over the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest as well.
Forever a loaner of sorts, an only child raised by two only children many of my most memorable experiences took place alone in the wilderness, something to this day I find hard to replace. That never-ending desire to see what is around the next bend or explore a new river I now realize has largely been the only time in my life I was able to find a modicum of clarity. Exploring and angling are the greatest activities I have ever found to calm my “busy” mind and as years went on, I realized it wasn’t really the fish I was after, but more so the journey to find them. That moment when their journey and mine would intersect brought everything full circle and as we parted ways gave me something to think about when I couldn’t be on the water.
The more Steelhead anglers I meet, the more certain I am that the vast majority of folks pursuing these fish, especially with the swung fly are after the exact same thing as I, a never ending exploration into the wilds of the Earth and what better species to obsess over than one that has such an epic journey between two Worlds as the migratory Rainbow Trout known as Steelhead. To those that live to travel the road less travelled, I admire you and pray that these places and creatures exist for generations to come for more people like us to pursue our wildest dreams within.