The words, “steelhead” and “addict,” are affectionately connected for perhaps the majority of steelheaders. For non-steelheaders, the behavior of these anglers seems obsessive and at times even cultish. For myself, I spent time with these enthusiasts at the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in San Francisco, where I was often mesmerized. I witnessed anglers who often put very little time on the water much of the year but spent endless hours perfecting their two-handed casting and devotedly discussing and planning the days they will trek north to (hopefully) hook into a magnificent creature that has been the focus of months of labor and craze. For many of those anglers, there seemed to be no other pursuit than the mighty steelhead. Recently, when I began the pursuit myself, I immediately connected to these anglers through shared passion — steelheading is an enthralling endeavor that engages the soul and seizes the mind.
For those who take on steelhead, a process of discovery and development is fueled by passion, and anglers embark on a life-long journey of advancing their craft. In Wild Steelhead — The Lure and Lore of a Pacific Northwest Icon, Sean M. Gallagher offers an extraordinary two-volume work that anthologizes the insights of those who have traveled far in the journey. In addiiton, Gallagher shares his wisdom of and appreciation for steelhead and the path to being a complete steelheader.
Wild Steelhead often reads like a memoir — one that documents a love of steelhead and details the wisdom gained through years of devotion to learning about steelheading. Gallagher masterfully describes the richness of steelhead and their pursuit, and in “Around the Campfire” sections, Gallagher taps into the experiences of others who have taken this journey, including, Peter W. Soverel, Bill McMillan, Harry Lemire, Bob Clay, Mia and Marty Sheppard.
Every aspect of steelheading is beautiful. Pacific Northwest steelhead rivers are often as big and magnificent as the lush ancient forests that line their banks. Steelhead terrain is commonly enhanced by healthy doses of rain that feed plant life. Coastal mountains frequently tower over wide rivers and provide a spectacular backdrop. Steelhead gear, and especially the flies, are also beautiful and the tools of the trade are as unique the the fish they are crafted for. Wild Steelhead not only describes this beauty through written word, but the volumes are enhanced with a bounty of gorgeous photos that perfectly capture the characteristics of steelheading.
While the word “breathtaking” seems appropriate for many of the visual aspects steelheading, it is rarely a word that describes a book. However, when I pulled the books from their packaging, I was in near disbelief with how impressed I was with the 673-page two-volume timeless contribution to steelhead.
For steelhead lovers, Wild Steelhead is a remarkable contribution that will hold a special place on angler’s bookshelves. With over 1,000 photographs and images highlighting valuable written contributions to steelhead angling, this timeless text’s worth is enduring.
To read more about Wild Steelhead, please click here.
– Tim Harden