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A Passion for Steelhead
Dec Hogan is well known in the fly fishing world as a master of the two-handed fly rod, but until I picked up "A Passion for Steelhead" I did not know much about Dec Hogan the angler. 313 pages later, that surely has changed, almost to the point where I feel the book's title is a bit of an understatement. Anglers worldwide tend to be passionate about their fishing, but I've always had the sense that those who chase steelhead in the Pacific Northwest were a little more hardcore than the rest of us, where the passion occasionally boils over into obsession. Dec's writing has done nothing to change my mind. God bless them all, I say. If only I could spend a day in their shoes.
In "A Passion for Steelhead", Dec offers us a master's course on steelhead fishing, starting with a terrific chapter dealing with the life cycle of one of the world's most amazing sportfish. He narrates us as "Mykiss" journeys through life from a freshly hatched egg through life at sea, culminating in death in its natal river. "Three quarters of a mile from the patch of bright gravel where he was laid five springs ago, his life is finished, the odyssey complete.". It's quite a story - exceedingly well written - and it does an excellent job of setting the stage for the rest of the book where respect for the fish is of utmost importance.
Dec follows up the story of the steelhead with a companion story of his own - his development as a fisherman - an autobiography of sorts. It's fascinating to me to learn how accomplished professional fishermen get to be in that position. I mean - it's not like you can go to "Rochester Fishalogical Institute" and get a bachelor's degree in steelhead fly fishing. It's a profession some of us dream about, some of us envy, but few of us understand because we're on the other end of the phone, the other side of the counter, or casting instead of rowing. Most of us are too afraid to follow that dream, so we get a vicarious thrill reading about those who have and how they got there.
The rest of the book takes us through the nuts and bolts of steelhead fishing - fly selection, a lengthy course on two handed casting, and plenty of actual fishing techniques. I don't mean to gloss over these sections and minimize their importance, as they really are the meat of the book, but it's near to impossible to convey the depth and breadth of information presented two hundred plus pages. Suffice to say - if it concerns classic steelhead fishing in the Pacific Northwest style - it's covered. In detail. There is even a full chapter of Q's and A's accumulated from years of seminars and guide trips. I mean really - Dec has gone out of his way to convery as much information to the reader as absolutely possible.
The last full chapter is an Ode to the author's home river - the Sagit. If only every river had such an articulate and passionate supporter.
"A Passion for Steelhead" is a visually stunning book. The photography and the color reproduction are outstanding, presented to the reader on heavy gloss paper. Readers of some of Thomas R. Pero's magazines will know what I am talking about. The images leap off the pages. This is the third Wild River Press book I have had the pleasure of reviewing, and each one share the same extremely high quality photography and presentaiton. In addition to all the full color photographs, the section on casting and fishing techiques is supported with excellent pencil drawings by Greg Pearson. This is not a coffee table book by any means, it's a textbook intended to educate a person on the ways of steelhead fishing, but while the reader is in full study, the teacher tosses in plenty of eye candy. It's a fun book to browse through when you've got a couple spare minutes, and it's a good book to sit down and crunch through to drill yourself on some advanced casting techniques.