With the hint of fall in the air, what better time to brush up on our quest for Great Lakes steelhead than with a review of Rick Kustich's book. Advanced Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead is a sort of follow up book to Rick and Jerry Kustich’s 1999 book Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead. The timing is perfect with the viral explosion that has become a never-ending pursuit for many of us that is steelhead fishing, in particular Great Lakes steelheading with a fly. Rick Kustich was the first fly tier I went to actually watch do a solo fly tying demo. I remember that brisk Buffalo, New York winter day at the Oak Orchard Fly Shop. Rick was on hand to tie tube flies and I was just scratching the surface in my curiosity for the tubular knowledge. I remember being captivated by the simplicity in execution and the fluidity in which he spoke and educated his audience. Every step and material had meaning and purpose. One thing I took away from his demo was that tube flies are a great way to have youngsters learn the skill of tying. No hooks to pierce inexperienced appendages until they are ready to be fished. It wasn’t long after that I was enthralled in his first book. Detail, detail, detail, every page had it. It opened a whole spectrum of new ideas for me and destinations to ponder. The ending notes of protecting our beloved surroundings and resources sealed it for me. As the years have evolved so has my quest for steelhead along with many of my fellow anglers. I no longer chuck parachute cords filled with lead to dredge the river bottoms with tiny nymphs dangling six feet away. I now prefer the quality of the tug rather than the numbers landed.
Rick Kustich has evolved as well and his detailed ability to capture every nook is chronicled in his new book Advanced Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead. Rick methodically breakdown our sport covering virtually every nuance and niche. What I like about Rick’s approach is that he covers many aspects and options and then states what style he likes and why. It’s a no-nonsense style that doesn’t dance around what is politically correct. I applaud his stance with statements like, “Personally I have nothing against any sporting means to catching a steelhead, but when one approach significantly takes opportunity away from other anglers, there does seem to be something that borders on the unethical about this type of behavior.” Rick certainly doesn’t soapbox issues, but rather his on the water experiences have exposed him to a vast array of individuals and techniques. Rick explores countless tactical approaches and keys in on environmental factors that affect the success of connecting to our quarry. Rick points out the advancements in technology to make our gear that much more versatile. Rick makes no qualms about the fact that pursuing steelhead with a two handed (Spey) rod is his driving desire. This style alone warrants a title using the word “advanced”. Rick takes the time to describe several casting strokes, many of which are designed but not limited to two handed rods. Careful descriptions are given followed by outstanding photo sequences taken by Nick Pionessa. The book is peppered with stunning scenic photos and many a magnificent Oncorhynchus mykiss specimens. This book really makes you appreciate and want to preserve the natural beauty that encompasses the Great Lakes region. The book nears its conclusion when Rick discusses the search for a quality experience and gives insight into possible new trends to improve our sport. Much like catch and release or catch limits have evolved through years of education, Rick hints to pool rotation and sharing in the experience as new avenues for improvement. The book wraps up with chapters on flies tyed by many of those who fish these great lakes with passion and a breakdown of the many rivers and streams in which to challenge our desires. There are no real spot burns, but rather a point in the right direction. Rick has a grasp on this fishery that can only make one wonder what lies ahead in the next fifteen years or so.