Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Wee,” in which we highlight some of the folks living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.
I sat next to Mike Steiner on a flight to Missoula, Montana, last spring, as we were both traveling to the Orvis Western Guide Rendezvous. I didn’t know much about the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, where Mike is head guide at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. His stories about the great, relatively uncrowded waters he gets to fish every day intrigued me, and I plan to get down there next season to fish the “Yough,” as well as some of the killer mountain streams nearby.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
2. What’s your favorite water?
My favorite water is the Youghiogheny River.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod?
Any trout species, but I also have a love/hate relationship with carp.
4. What’s your most memorable fly fishing moment?
My most memorable fly-fishing moment was my first experience fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park. Standing in the stream (Soda Butte Creek) and just looking around in amazement. The fishing was outstanding, but the overall experience—the scenery and wildlife—is what made it memorable.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly fishing moment?
I hate to admit it, but there have been three separate occasions I have given my clients two left or right boots. We provide all equipment needed for a lot of our guided fishing trips, and sometimes mistakes happen. The funniest thing is two out of the three times; my guest didn’t say anything about the boots till after the trip.
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
Everything! I love the places it takes you, but I also love the process. I enjoy the challenge of the day-to-day variables of the river and fish. That is the true addiction: trying to solve the equation everyday on the river. This is what makes guiding fun and exciting for me every day; I am still connected to the process even when I’m not holding the rod.
7. What is your favorite piece of gear?
This is tough question! I would have to say my Orvis polarized sunglasses; I love the rose lenses. They allow me to do my job better, and without them I feel like I am fishing blind.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
I plead the 5th. . . . I can’t give away all my secrets.
9. What was your favorite fly fishing trip?
This goes with my most memorable fly fishing moment. Yellowstone was just a truly awesome place to stand in a river.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
I think this quote from an unknown author defines the difference pretty well:
I am a fly fisherman. It is not merely something that I do, it is who I am. Fly Fishing is not simply my escape; it is where I truly belong. It is where I am supposed to be. It is not a place that I go, but a lifelong journey that I am on. It is a passage that my father has shown to me, and one that I will show to others. Once you understand this, then you will know who I am. And we will fish together even from far away. . . .