More on Steelhead and Wind Knots

More on Steelhead and Wind Knots

Lessons to be learned?

  • By: Joe Healy

We published a short first-person essay by fly fisher Peter Harrison in the March 2010 issue (page 18 of the “Short Casts” section) titled “Steelhead and Wind Knots,” which included an introduction by Fly Rod & Reel editor-at-large Joan Wulff. The piece brought some feedback… enough for a follow-up comment.

Last summer, Joan called me about the International Game Fish Association line-class-record steelhead Peter Harrison caught and she felt her intro text about losing a big fish to preventable tackle failure would nicely set up Harrison’s essay. You see, Joan was fishing with Peter when she had neglected to change her leader after noticing a wind knot in it; inevitably, that knot failed when she was fighting a large Atlantic salmon; she lost the fish. Peter witnessed this… and learned from it. Fishing Washington’s Hoh River, Peter landed the steelhead because he put on a fresh leader after detecting a wind knot. It was a cautionary tale by Joan, with a happy ending for Peter. Though we considered that some passions might be ignited because Peter killed a large steelhead, overall we judged the piece to be helpful and entertaining.

We’ve since received letters. Several applauded the piece and congratulated Peter on his catch; a couple pointed out that Peter got his geography wrong, and that the Hoh River flows to the Pacific, not the Strait of Juan de Fuca; several others were critical that a breeder-age steelhead was killed, and questioned why FR&R and Joan Wulff would “condone” such an act. You’ll find a range of these letters beginning on page 7 of this issue.

Of course, we published one angler’s story, intending only to entertain our readers. We didn’t interview the angler or analyze his motives, we didn’t glorify his catch—we simply published Peter’s own words, letting him tell the story. We’re all bound to abide by fishing laws, and Peter did: Killing and keeping the fish was legal in Washington State.

We’ve re-published Peter’s piece on our Web site at and we’d like to hear your further thoughts. We all treasure our fishing resources, and steelhead have been sorely hurt in the Pacific Northwest, for any number of environmental and fisheries-management reasons and blunders. To me, Peter’s words show that he didn’t take the decision to kill the fish lightly. But the discussion might continue to help all of us anglers examine our feelings about fisheries resources today. Send e-mail to [email protected]. We’ll post your comments at