Next up in our Meet the Team series is Wild Steelheaders United ambassador Lee Geist. You may know Lee from his Instagram profile (@lee_geist) or from his frequent presence on the waters of the Olympic Peninsula. Lee contributes blog and social media content for Wild Steelheaders and makes the rest of staff jealous with the amount of time he spends fishing.
The Olympic Peninsula and all her glorious watersheds.
Favorite way to catch steelhead (gear, fly, etc.)?
I enjoy almost all methods of take when it comes to steelheading, but I must say in recent years I have become most fond of swinging a fly or spoon.
Boat or hike? Why?
I would have to say it all depends on which one is the most effective giving the particular conditions of the day. No two rivers are the same and the way I access them reflects that.
Story around the first steelhead you ever caught?
How about my first ever steelhead encounter.
Growing up my father let me wrestle a lot of steelhead but the first one on my own was something else. I was about 11 or 12 and my dad took me bank fishing on a small coastal tributary. At that time the most common technique was drift fishing. My dad had me drift fishing with a level wind, a piece of pencil lead, a short leader and purple arrow fly. I was maybe a mile ahead of him picking out a rat nest when a steelhead grabbed my arrow fly as it drifted aimlessly in the tail out. I only got a few chrome tugs before it snapped off in the center of my spool.
Most memorable steelhead camp?
Since age 12, during the heat of the summer, my dad would take me into a local river canyon. We would car camp in the canyon’s oxbow for a few days, armed with nothing but a handful of spinners. We hunted hatchery summer steelhead in the canyon shade and we hunted them hard.
What’s your favorite thing about wild steelhead?
They are unique! Each and every one is unique, and their number of life histories is the proof in the pudding.
Other hobbies or passions besides wild steelhead?
Hunting but still mostly just steelhead and the endless rabbit hole it is.
Tell us about your professional experience and what brought you to Wild Steelheaders United.
I really don’t know how professional my experience is. I do know I have spent most of my life chasing wild steelhead and have been immersed in the culture since I was a child. Apart from donating time and money to local salmon and steelhead enhancement programs, I have spent some of my life as a guide and most of it as a weekend warrior. I have seen things change, I can see what we are headed towards, and I want to become part of the solution. Wild Steelheaders United seems to be that avenue for me.
When you think of the future of wild steelhead, what gives you a sense of hope? What makes you concerned or worried?
I have a lot of hope for the future of wild steelhead. Look at the Elwha; it’s obvious people care and the Elwha dam removal is a prime example of it. Even in sport fishing there is hope. It took no time at all for social media peer pressure to push wild steelhead handling in a more ethical direction. Dragging a wild steelhead up on the rocks for a picture is a thing of the past. My only real worry with angling and its effect on wild steelhead is our encounter rate. Tackle technology has gotten incredible. I can go buy bead that looks like a damn living Chinook embryo and even squishes like the real thing too. Eventually some lines will have to be drawn – I just hope steelheaders will be able to accept that.
Anything else you want Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited readers to know?
Trout Unlimited is not trying to take your hatchery steelhead away. Read the newsletters, check those emails and arm yourself with real knowledge regarding wild steelhead and what they are facing throughout their range.