Attentive days on the steelhead watch from Checchio (Sundown Legends, 2000, etc.), who as a novice to this subspecies of fly-fishing brings a refreshingly unaffected eye to it.
“I was a trout fisherman gone wrong,” writes the author of his move from the East Coast to fish the storied steelhead and salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. He was looking for something a little wilder, a little woollier—a couple of bears moving in on his fishing spot wouldn’t be so bad—not to mention that he liked mountains with glaciers on top of them to go with his casting. And writing here of its unadorned pleasure, Checchio fell hard for the whole nine yards of steelhead fishing, from the monkish days of winter on the water, to the dreams of throwing a line in Kamchatka or Norway. But he doesn’t do too badly for himself, ranging from the Russian River directly north of his San Francisco home to the Bulkley and Squamish on the British Columbia coast, with stops at the Smith, the Klamath, the North Umpqua, his favorite of all, and plenty of others along the way. Though there’s a preponderance of “I could feel the throb of the fish” clichés here, there is also plenty of relevant natural history, crisp and beguiling streamside observations (one winter river “passed by like a bolt of cold green silk”), and a sad tale of the shameful condition of salmon/steelhead fisheries worldwide and the big-bucks exclusivity characterizing much of the remaining water. His chapter on the ethics of fishing is ill-argued—little more than an inadequate rehash of ideas better said by Federico Garcia Lorca or Jim Harrison—but for the most part he is nimble, knowing when to break from the fishing to talk about quaking aspens or tender a wry sociological take on Bigfoot.
Good fishing writing—makes you want to go stand in some water and look at the scenery.