Last Chance to Get It Right – by Gregory Fitz PT – 2

© Cameron Karsten Photography photographs steelhead fly fishing on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for Patagonia and the Wild Steelhead Coalition

I grew up in the PNW and the Olympics acted as my backyard as soon as I was able to drive. My friends and I would pile in and we’d take the long winding highways to the coast in search of waves, bonfires and whatever the weather had in store for us. Rarely did we stop at the rivers. We sought the confluences where freshwater met salt; a long journey’s end or just the start for a molecule of water. And likewise for the sea-run rainbow trout, or better known as steelhead.

This project written by colleague Gregory Fitz and published by Patagonia was an honor, a return to my backyard after the long self-isolated stretch of COVID shutdowns and a reawakening into the beauty, fragility and wildness that the Olympic Peninsula is. Like the waves I’ve spent countless hours feeling roll over my back and sliding like a river under my feet, the steelhead of the OP move with the tides, and the way we manage our fisheries. In the words of writer and angler Fitz, “Instead of arguing for more opportunities to keep pounding on fish, we should be fighting for policies that give their populations time to rebuild. We should be proud to catch fewer fish, even if that means closing rivers when it is necessary.”

Last Chance to Get It Right by Gregory Fitz, published by Patagonia.

Last Chance to Get It Right – by Gregory Fitz PT – 1

© Cameron Karsten Photography photographs steelhead fly fising on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for Patagonia and the Wild Steelhead Coalition

The Olympic Peninsula (OP) is home to one of the last remnants of primeval temperate rain forest in the continental United States, but it is the rivers that draw anglers to the coast each winter. Named for the Indigenous peoples who’ve lived here for thousands of years, the Hoh, Queets, Quinault, Quillayute, Elwha and other rivers are volatile, wild watersheds with a powerful strain of large steelhead that evolved to migrate during the cold winter deluge.

The above is an excerpt from an article written by Gregory Fitz for Patagonia regarding the state of wild steelhead within the wild tributaries of The Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. I had the pleasure of photographing Greg, Steve Duda (Patagonia’s Managing Editor for Fly Fishing), Matt Millette (Head of Marketing, Patagonia Fly Fishing) and Gray Struznik (Fly Fishing Legend and Guide) for two days as they floated, waded and wandered the waters in search of the seasonal steelhead run.

The published article speaks for itself. It is poignant, crafted with an ease of the need to spring to action, as well as consider all parties involved. Gregory paints a picture of the OP as it is – a rainforest of endless ferns, brambles, huckleberries and salal with climbing towers of ancient breathing wood carpeted with wet mosses. It is a place of beauty that is on the edge of imminent disaster.

Can we embrace restraint and become guardians of these rivers and wild fish, instead of mobs of enthusiastic user groups? Long days of fishing give a guy plenty of time to dwell on this question. When I’m leaning against the current, and the fly is swinging through the cold water at the right speed, I find myself settling into a blend of gratitude and anticipation that I struggle to describe to anyone who isn’t an angler. Time seems to slow, and I feel connected to the river, the ancient cycle of fresh and saltwater, and the weight of what we have already lost. I want to believe that we can do better and demand better of our peers. If we can’t meet this higher standard, then the only option is for all of us to stop fishing here until we can adequately honor the privilege, and our responsibility, instead of taking it for granted.

I offer the link to the full article published on Patagonia’s website Last Chance to Get It Right as well as additional photography from this winter’s assignment. Speak up for our planet and take action with the following organizations:

Wild Steelhead Coalition

The Nature Conservancy

American Rivers

The Last Great Wild Place

The Olympic National Park is in my mind one of the last great wild places on earth. It’s absolutely remarkable with thick rich flora and fauna, and some of the last largest stands of trees. To venture into its rivers is an experience in and of itself, especially when you’re walking with two great anglers. Dylan Tomine and Nate Mantua are highly educated about the remaining wild fisheries around the world, especially the great steelhead runs along the West Coast. With Sage and Patagonia, I had the opportunity to spend two days wandering up and down the tributaries with them, and a host of other wildlife.

 

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STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. IV)

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When there is a river nearby, there must be fish. Always bring your fly rod, seek the thrill and reel in those steelhead. Somewhere up the S. Fork Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State on a Stormr assignment.

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