Monday, September 9, 2013

Wild Steelhead - The Lure and Lore of a Pacific Northwest Icon

WSH Cover

"Three years in the making, Wild Steelhead by Sean Gallagher is a two-volume masterwork of nearly 700 pages. It's big and beautiful. It's filled with more than 1,000 glowing photos and original illustrations. Sean's personal stories are wonderful. The long-form interviews we did with many legends of the sport--including the last talk with the late Harry Lemire--are authentic and riveting. Participant's pride aside, I'll happily stake my reputation on this production being, hands down, the best steelhead book in a generation. There has never been anything quite like it in scope or graphic presentation." Tom Perro

When Tom Perro started Wild River Press his mission was to produce the finest books about fly fishing out there.  He has published books such as "A Passion for Steelhead",  "Atlantic Salmon Magic" and "Casting with Lefty Kreh." Just to name a few. 

Tom fights a dandy steelhead. photo by Marty Sheppard

Wild Steelhead will be released in November and is a must to add to your steelhead collection. You can place a pre-publication order for the $150 two-volume standard edition now at . They are also accepting orders for the $500 signed and numbered limited edition of 150 copies, some 20 of which are already reserved. 

Marty and I are honored to be featured in this extraordinary book with other passionate steelheaders such as Adam and Judy Tavender, Peter Soverel, and Jim Adams. Enjoy this sample excerpt from Sean's "campfire conversation" with us. 

Talking Steelhead with Mia and Marty Sheppard

sheppard campfireMarty: One thing I have learned while guiding is that long casts are not the secret to catching steelhead. You get better as a guide as you go on. You take people out that day in and day out are not going to cast over 60 feet, and you learn how to really concentrate on water where they are going to catch steelhead at that distance. You'll go through good stretches of fishing and you'll go through bad stretches of fishing. In the middle of the those good stretches of fishing, I can't wait for a day off, because I know the fish are around. What I've realized over time is I don't catch any more fish than my clients do. I know I'm a more skilled caster and I know I can cast a lot farther. And I do. But I do not have any more success than they do--sometimes less. If you can fish well consistently at short distances, I think your odds are just as good on certain rivers where fish hold from the middle seam to the inside. These are rivers that you can almost cast across. I have guys that try and cast to the other side and I say, "Hey, if you want to fish the other side, I'll take you over there." Then there are other softer rivers that you can cast across. You can actually cross the seam. That's okay as long as you don't over mend it. Every river has its own characteristic.
 What advantage does a double-handed rod give the steelheader?
Mia:  The clear advantage a double-handed rod has over a single-hander is line control--the longer rod gives you more extension over the water.
Marty: Obviously, you're able to lift more line off the water with a longer rod, so you're able to manipulate or mend how your fly swings with more ease. Every run is different; the river currents change. A different type of mend is needed for each particular situation. Too many people limit this to an upstream mend. The longer rod can do so much. I try to teach people to read water and mend a certain way with a purpose. Read the water by seeing how the currents push your fly line around without a mend.

Marty: I want to see what the current does to the line if I don't mend at all. Many times a mend is the last thing needed. Sometimes the line does things that surprise you. With a longer rod you can manipulate it to swing how you want it to swing.

So you can do a half mend or a downstream mend-or no mend.
Marty: Part of guiding is teaching people. You're telling them to mend, but why? That's the big question. Why do you want me to mend downstream here?

How much of it is feel?
Marty: For me, almost 100 percent is by feel. There seems to be a different tension when your fly is swinging that fish eat more than with other swings. 

What is the "right" tension--can you describe it?
Mia: I think the tension when your fly is swinging through the water is similar to the energy you feel between two magnets. When you put two magnets together and you feel this force, pulse or tension between the magnets, to me that is what it feels like. It's this energy of the current pulling the energy of that line through the water.

Mia's Mini Muddler

Do you imagine what your fly is doing out there?
Marty: Almost every single cast.
Mia: Definitely.
Marty: Sometimes I think it's totally wrong and yet a fish hammers it. What do you do? As soon as you think you've got it all figured out it the steelhead change the rules on you.
Mia: I used to mend a lot when I first started fishing; now I rarely mend. I just throw it out there and let it go, let the current carry the fly across the water. In the winter I fish water that would be similar to the pace of taking a casual stroll on the beach, but in the summer steelhead tend to be in the faster currents where they receive more oxygen.

But you know that feeling because it has worked over and over again. Success has reinforced it. So you know it.
Marty: A lot of that is that we use the work of the current on the line to our favor, as opposed to mending. I'll just add or subtract tension from the line on the swing. What I'll do is just lift my rod tip up or maybe take two steps down, or four. There are other things you can do to control your fly speed coming across the current besides throwing a mend into it. A lot of that is the tension I put on the line by the angle I hold my rod. There are certain angles, if you put your rod tip in the water, from your tip to your fly; you're going to have the current catching it all the way. That gives me that feel that Mia was talking about--two positives going together and you can't quite push them together. There are other times when you have a fast current next to you with a soft current five feet out, and another medium speed current six feet out, and another slow current 10 feet out--and then a really fast current 20 feet out, but then a really soft 20-foot seam 45 feet out.

How do you handle this situation?
You throw your line out there and see what happens! You don't do anything. You go with your instinct: that's the seam the fish probably are going to live in. And that's the type of reading water that I like to do. I know if I can hold my fly out in that soft stream a little longer than just throwing it out there, putting one big upstream mend into it and letting all the line at the water, maybe I need to change my angle and the distance of my cast downstream. With that done, I can hold my rod tip high and I feel that perfect tension coming through that perfect soft big seam that's way out there and, WHAM, one eats it! It's hard to put into words.