Everyone has a story and this is about my fly fishing journey.
I was a kid just starting 1st grade many years ago and my teacher gave me a bamboo fly rod that belonged to her deceased husband for cutting her lawn a few time. So you could say that was the start or my beginning of my fly fishing adventures, I just didn't know it at the time.
I relocated to Cleveland sometime after going to a business collage to start my IT career in 1969. I returned to Oregon a few years later and that too was short lived. Again, I returned back to Cleveland where I began my IT Health Care career. I've always worked at Fairview Hospital which over looks Cleveland Metroparks, Rocky River Reservation and that is another reason I became interested in steelhead fishing. You really didn't see a lot of steelheaders at all, no matter where you ventured, the rivers were yours to fish anytime and anywhere, it was like having your own private waters. It was mostly the retired guys fishing steelhead then and everyone used spinning rods.They all had tight lips and never offered help to outsiders.
Then one day I asked an old timer who's river name was Admiral Frank, he was a retired Navy man. He always kept his fish to give to fellow disabled Vet's that he knew. So Frank said, "Casey you have put in a lot of effort .....", I'll help you. “So Frank, what do I need to do?”, I asked. Frank replied, "The first thing you do is step on the other side of me". Of course I had to ask, “Why?”. I'll never forget what his answer was, "Because 12 inches will make the difference of you catching a steelhead or not catching one". Frank was absolutely right, it is that important. I hooked three steelhead with his help and lost all of them, he wasn't very happy about that. It took me countless hours and the rest of the season before I accidentally caught my first Ohio Great Lakes steelhead.
I met my fishing buddy the following year and together we figured it out over the next few years. It was common back then to have 10-20 fish day or more. When you broke it down, it wasn't hard at all to catch these fish once you understood them. A few years later I started up my guide business, One-on-One River Guide Service. There was no Internet at that time and to get your name out there, you did it the old fashion way, speaking at clubs and putting business cards and brochures in fly shops, bait and tackle shops and handing them to anyone who would take one.
One-on-One River Guide Service was a guide service willing to teach angles how to catch steelhead and not much has changed over the years. We still are catch and release and fly fishing only. Not only did I want to provide a quality guiding business, I wanted to help and teach anglers how to catch this magnificent fish, respect them and protect the resource. The primary tool to catch steelhead at that time as mention before was a spinning rod, even though I used a fly rod when conditions were right. I knew at that time the fly industry would one day be huge and most Great Lakes steelheaders would own at least one fly rod, it was only a matter of time.
In 1992 it all changed when "The River Runs Through It" hit the big screen. It seemed like everyone came out of the wood work with a fly rod. The fly fishing industry and fly fishermen finally got the kick start they desperately needed.
Shortly after the movie broke box office records, I stopped at Rocky River one evening and was approached by an outdoors writer, who informed me he knew all about me. He went on to say that I was a steelhead legion and I'm the talk on the rivers no matter where he goes. As we sat there on a park bench, I noticed a fly fisher in the water. He was trying to learn how to cast his fly rod; it was so painful to watch. This was the day everything changed for One-on-One River Guide Service, even its name. One-on-One River Guide Service became The Steelhead Guide whose primary goals were to teach fly fishermen how to use their fly rods to catch steelhead.
The Internet slowly came about and guide services have come and gone. I count my blessings that I'm still here three decades later doing what I love doing. Fishing manufactures have had their share of ups and downs too. Many have been bought and sold over the years, all of which has enhanced our fly fishing experience and has made the sport somewhat more affordable.
The manufactures of fly rods, fly reels, fly lines, wades, wading boots and apparel are all finally getting it right, and the industry is where it needed to be. It's all good now, single hand and two hand rods, unbelievable fly lines, fly fishing clubs, CFR, PHW and RR, who would have known. All though The Steelhead Guide only had a small part in it all, it makes me feel good that I had the opportunity to touched the lives of many, many fly fisherman and started them right on their fly fishing journeys. As you look around on every river, you see most anglers are carrying a fly rod. I can't help but wonder, how many steelheaders there are fly fishing today? In the Great Lakes it's very popular, flyfishing out numbers all other fishing tools.
At one time I wondered why, but not anymore why steelheaders liked fly fishing so much. Then one day I realized what it's all about. Fly fishing is truely an interactive fishing sport that requires the angler to do something all the time, every minute and every hour the fly is in the water. You’re always planning and managing what you are doing. Numbers of fly fishers also tie flies and they find greatness and self satisfaction when they come up with something that works and get hookups.
No matter which fishing method you prefer really doesn't matter to me as long as you have fishing ethics. We all have our own reasons why we fish the way we do. In a bigger picture, catching fish is a bonus and what really matters is having the opportunity of being there and being in the water. As the years come and go, you never relized you're get older, a little bit slower and a lot smarter. You pray for your health to not fail you and that you'll be in the water tomorrow doing what you love doing, helping others.
I grew up in Roseburg, Oregon on the North Umpqua River. We also had a creek named Deer Creek that was across the road in front of our house. Deer Creek played a big part in my fly fishing journey and my love of the outdoors. Growing up the neighborhood kids spent their spare time at the creek doing what kids do, fishing, throwing rocks and swimming. My father had little time away from his work, so my uncle took time to teach me and my old brother how to fish and hunt, because that is what you did in Oregon.