Here is one of my writing samples in its entirety:
March 28, 2013
A “Twilight Zone” Discovered
By Lisa M. Schweitzer
Both beauty and mystery encompass the small town of Forks, WA, as well as within the surrounding 2,000-square-miles of incredible rain forests and Olympic Peninsula. The beauty that I discovered is beyond the moss-covered trees and underneath the fog; what lies beneath the surface of the misty rivers and 212-days-a-year of rainfall; the pure thrill that can follow if you are lucky enough and dedicated enough to find it… wild steelhead. The mystery is where these magnificent creatures can be found. The town of Forks is named after the four rivers that come together nearby: The Quillayute, Bogachiel, Calawah and Sol Duc. The wild steelhead that are born in these rivers, leave to explore the sea ocean waters and then return after 2-3 years to spawn in their home rivers. A lot of times they are mistaken with salmon because of their anadromous lives, but they are actually in the same family as rainbow trout. Their unique coloring—with their blushed, bright chrome skin and spotted tails (darker skin coloring, depending on whether they have spawned or not), along with their background make them the most incredible species of fish that I have ever encountered. This extraordinary connection between beauty and mystery are what make me want to come back to Forks every year for the rest of my life, so that I can seek out these amazing fish with a fly rod in hopes that I might find one or two.
Almost 4-years-ago, I can honestly say that I had no idea what a steelhead was. If asked at the time, I probably would have guessed that it was some kind of salmon (hand slap to forehead). Wow, have things changed in my life since then… When I look back on my life before steelhead, before fly-fishing, and before my husband– who introduced me to all of that, I think about how much I have grown and how much my life has changed for the better.
My early twenties was a time of my life filled with ups-and-downs, and ultimately, I was lost. I had a lot of obstacles and detours in my life during those days, and I honestly can summarize those times as years of never quite finding myself. Without going into a tangent of unnecessary details, I believe that fly-fishing saved my life. I have my amazing husband, Andrew, to thank for leading me to discovering this incredibly positive, life-changing, aspect of myself that I am forever thankful for.
Ever since I went to Forks for the first time in March of 2010, I have forever become a changed woman… (Flash back to a journal entry about my first experience with winter steelhead on the Hoh river):
March 16, 2010:
After three full days of fishing on multiple rivers and countless runs without a single bite on my line, I was starting to lose hope (clearly, I had no idea how challenging pursuing steelhead with a swung fly was at that point). My hands and arms were aching, my body was exhausted and my mental state was at an all-time low. Andrew tried to keep my optimism up, as being a much more experienced and seasoned steelhead fisher, he knew that this fish-less streak was very normal in these conditions, and he promised things would turn up for us eventually. (Maybe…) The rain kept falling, my casts were losing momentum, but we just kept plugging along the rivers, despite the quickly deteriorating stamina. We were like two wet, cold and hungry dogs aimlessly trudging the rocky banks searching for food and shelter, except that we were only a few miles away from town. What kept us out there despite all of this unnecessary suffering, was the fish.
We returned to camp that evening with nothing more than a leaky pairs of waders and soaked egos. Thankfully our good friends from Montana, who are as crazy as we are, were there to welcome us with a warm meal, and our determination was salvaged. The fire was re-ignited in our weary eyes, and as I sat back and sipped on my beer with a full belly, I knew we had one more chance to get a fish before we had to return to the city the next day, and my fierce ambition was back.
After almost eight hours of much-needed sleep, we rose up at 4:45am with a fearless determination and were refilled with vigor and passion to find fish.
Casting, swinging and stepping down the run, as I had done the day before, I was beginning the get a terrible déjà-vu feeling as the morning quickly passed. It was a little before 11 am, and I had lost four of Andrew’s gorgeous flies on unforgiving rocks. I was beginning to lose hope and patience all over again… cast, swing, step… cast, swing, step… cast, swing– BAM! Suddenly a rock slammed into my fly and took off– “NO, not a rock! That’s a FIIIISH!!” -my inner thoughts screamed, before my actual voice was able to scream out simultaneously with the reel, as the magnificent steelhead jumped clear out of the water and took off, pulling line faster than a hamster on steroids running his wheel out of control. “Fish ON!!!” was what managed to come out of my mouth. Within seconds, Andrew was reeling up and running toward me with a huge smile. Once I was able to reel it in towards the bank, Andrew was ready to tail it for me. Once it was in his grasp, we noticed it was not a very large fish, but it sure was bright as chrome and more beautiful than any steelhead I had seen before. It was clearly fresh from its return from the ocean with its illuminated silver coloring, sea lice and feisty vigor upon release. Our relentless efforts were redeemed! I told the fish “Thank You”, as I watched him swim quickly away and return to its home water…
Why do we put ourselves through so much effort for long days without a reward, wearing ourselves down to the bare bones underneath our rain-soaked attire and hopeless demeanors? Why do we hike miles of untouched trails searching for the possibility of fish to be holding in a piece of water; with a current that looks just right; with water at just the right temperature, color and level? It’s all for that single, breathtaking, earth shattering moment that we live for. It is the pursuit that makes it all worth it.
Thanks for reading~