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The Search For Atlantic Steelhead by Dylan Tomine

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A fine Atlantic Steelhead A fine Atlantic Steelhead

"Okay", he yells, "this is intense." Because we are facing each other, huddled in the bow of the skiff, I reply by pointing behind him at the looming cliff wall and the sideways direction of the wind that is slowly pushing us toward it. "Holy shit,"

"TURNS OUT, IT’S NOT THE WIND BLOWING 100 KILOMETERS PER HOUR that gets you. I mean, you can live with the wind. Hell, you can even fish in it. It’s the rocks blowing 100 kilometers per hour that really suck. On Argentina’s Rio Santa Cruz, it goes something like this: The wind starts cranking up, we see a brownish red cloud of haze way out on the horizon, and the next thing you know, our local boatman, Alber, is yelling with some urgency that it’s about to get "muy mal." We reel up, pile into the boat and try to make it to some kind of shelter before it hits. As we struggle forward against the gale in our 10-foot Zodiac, fighting three-foot whitecaps and vicious spindrift, we are suddenly engulfed by a stinging assortment of flying debris. I’m talking about BB-sized gravel and sand propelled at speeds high enough to give you pretty good idea of what Dick Cheney’s hunting partner must have felt like.

WE DO NOT MAKE IT to shelter before it hits. In fact, we are caught out in the open river, driven by the wind up against a sheer cliff wall and the roiling, churning water at its base. Darkness is falling. Tim points to the chaotic mess of the river ahead, now obscured by a combination of dusk, spray, and the aforementioned airborne rocks and sand.

"Okay," he yells, "this is intense." Because we are facing each other, huddled in the bow of the skiff, I reply by pointing behind him at the looming cliff wall and the sideways direction of the wind that is slowly pushing us toward it. "Holy shit," he says. Then the motor quits.

There is a fine and often hazy line that separates exciting adventure from life-threatening calamity. In a surreal moment of detached clarity, I attempt to calculate where exactly we are in relation to this line as I watch Alber scrambling on hands and knees in the heaving boat, frantically trying to change out the clogged fuel line. I’m also trying to decide whether it would improve my chances of survival to abandon ship now and brave the thrashing water on my own—or wait and hope that Alber can get the motor going before we’re smashed against the cliff.

Decisions, decisions. The third option, of course, is to kill Tim for getting us into this in the first place. Door Number Three is sounding pretty good at the moment. But then, just as I’m stealthily reaching toward his throat, the motor coughs, chugs and miraculously springs back to life. I quickly switch my outstretched hands to the high-five position, and nobody suspects a thing. That fine and hazy line moves a little to the right, and we are now— at least for the time being—back to "having fun."



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