Lewiston author captures the beauty and majesty of steelhead fly fishing

“Seasons of the Steelhead” by Will Godfrey with photos by Drew Stoecklein Stoecklein Photography & Publishing 192 pages, $50

If you’ve heard of the Egg-Sucking Leech, Idaho Smasher or the Purple Peril you probably know about fly fishing for steelhead, but the new book “Seasons of the Steelhead” isn’t about what fly to use where. Instead, it wants to capture the beauty and majesty of the rivers and the fish that draws people to the sport.

“There are a lot of books in the marketplace on where to go and how to fish for steelhead,” says author Will Godfrey. “... but there was not a book that was associated with the real passion behind steelheading and what it was about.”

Godfrey’s coffee-table book features eye-catching photography from the rivers of Idaho, Oregon and Washington by Drew Stoecklein of Ketchum, Idaho; and essays and entries from stream notes by Godfrey, a longtime fly fisherman. He will present his book at 4 p.m. Thursday at Barnes and Noble in Pullman and 2 p.m. Saturday at And Books Too in Clarkston.

Godfrey, 74, learned fly fishing from his father at a young age then honed his skills at Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop in West Yellowstone, Mont. He spent years as an outfitter and guide on the rivers of southwest Montana and Yellowstone National Park. He started fishing for steelhead in the late 1970s when he expanded his outfitting and guiding business into Canada. A former Idaho Fish and Game commissioner, he moved to Lewiston in 2002 when his wife took a job in the area. He’d retired from professional guiding by then but found new zeal for the sport in the area’s rivers. “Seasons of the Steelhead” attempts to capture that feeling.

“I wanted the wannabe guy who wants to be a steelheader with a fly to feel the passion all of us feel to do that thing. For the guy that’s experienced, the purpose there is just a reminder to let her or him feel the excitement again of swinging a fly, to throw another log on that fire to get it burning.”

The book is divided into seasons with photos of fly fishing in all weather. Stoecklein shot more than 6,000 images and the book contains 200 of the best. It spans north to the Olympic Peninsula at Forks and south to the Salmon River. The Clearwater, Snake and Grande Ronde rivers are heavily featured. Locations are general so as not to give away anyone’s secret  hole.

Even with the generalizations, “there’s always a group in the fly-fishing world who would prefer to have not shown this to anybody,” Godfrey says. “We’re very possessive and protective of the rivers.”

Godfrey doesn’t shy away from the political controversy over salmon. One of the book’s final chapters, “Does Anybody Care,” is about the preservation of wild stocks “and how we have done a pretty good job of destroying them,” says Godfrey, whose editors initially called the chapter “too toxic” to be included. “That’s the very reason I’m writing this book,” Godfrey recalls telling them. “And you are some of the people who don’t care.”

In the end, the editors changed some wording but left the message intact, that dams, like Dworshak, wiped out “maybe the best wild steelhead run in the U.S.,” and that the hatcheries have been a “sorry substitute” for nature.

“When you boil it all down, when you’re talking about the North Fork or Oregon or Washington and wild stocks, all of which are in dire straits right now, everything possible must be done to maintain the wild stocks.”

Breaching the lower Snake River dams would go a long ways toward restoring those stocks, says Godfrey, who has started work on a new book, an in-depth history of fly fishing in Idaho.

“Seasons of the Steelhead” is available through Godfrey by calling (800) 278-6743. It costs $50, plus $6 for shipping and handling. It’s also available at Tri-State Outfitters in Lewiston and And Books Too in Clarkston.

What: Will Godfrey author of “Seasons of the Steelhead” When: 4-6 p.m. today, reading and discussion Where: Barnes and Noble, 405 N.E. Stadium Way, Pullman When: 2-4 p.m. Saturday, signing Where: And Books Too, 918 Sixth St., Clarkston

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