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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A River Odyssey

In Seasons of the Steelhead, Drew Stoecklein’s photographs take us on a visual journey that captures the essence of being on the river

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Steelhead are among the most highly prized and admired species for those who love to fly-fish. The quest for the anadromous fish is practiced with devotion and fervor, especially in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Unlike salmon, steelhead are able to spawn many times, and they can do it more than once in a single year. In Seasons of the Steelhead, Drew Stoecklein's images capture the magnificent fish and the patient, persistent individuals who angle for them. There's no one time for a steelhead run. Different populations migrate at different times of the year, so for an outdoorsperson, the pursuit of steelhead is a year-round endeavor. Above: Jess Kiesel on the Sol Duc River, Washington.

Keith Stonebraker on the Clearwater River, Idaho.
When he was approached about doing a book on fishing for steelhead in the Northwest, Drew Stoecklein had never photographed such a large-scale project, and he knew little about fishing. In the hands of a lesser photographer, those might have been handicaps, but for this professional Big Mountain skier and photographer, it was just another challenge to overcome.

What began in the summer of 2009 stretched into a two-year odyssey for Stoecklein. "It took about two years to do the whole shoot," he explains. "You think you can just go out and get a lot of shots pretty easily, but for the first two weeks, all day, everyday, there were no fish. That's when I realized it's not all about big fish; it's about being out on the river. It's also so seasonal. That made it hard to shoot. I was essentially following the fish."

Tracking the fish is another way of putting it, and tracking fish certainly isn't easy. In the inevitable downtimes when the fishing was slow, Stoecklein focused his lenses on details and aspects of the sport that easily can be overlooked. It's these detail shots that truly give a viewer the intimate feeling of what it's like to be out in nature, in and around the big water in the quest for steelhead.

Jess Kiesel's catch on the Grande Ronde River, Idaho.

Will Godfrey's flies, Idaho.

The detail shots tend to be the ones that stick the most in the mind's eye. While big vistas of Western mountains and rivers are striking and beautiful, the tighter images, with their rich colors and graphic compositions, are the glue that holds the broad collection of photography together and makes for a cohesive book.


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