IT CAME DOWN TO THIS: Just how far would I go to catch a damn steelhead? My fly fishing guide had spent the better part of the last hour plowing past the other drift boats on the Deschutes to ensure we’d be the first ones to reach the Power Line Hole—a known steelhead hotspot on the river.

“We could pull 10 fish out of there if no one has messed with it,” he told me. I’d netted two steelhead on the trip so far and had learned two things:

1. The steelhead cliché is true: The tug is the drug—and I wanted more.

2. The murderously slick rocks of the Deschutes live up to their rep.

In fact, wading that river was one of the more dangerous things I’d ever done up to that point in my life—made even more dangerous by the fact that I’d failed to bring a wading staff…and that the rock-gripping felt soles on my boots had come unglued and washed down the river earlier that day. Nonetheless, my guide instructed me to walk into the river till I was chest deep and at the edge of a dropoff. Each time I felt as though I’d gone far enough to cast, he’d yell from the boat: “Wade deeper!” 

A first-hand account of a gator attack is one of four close calls you'll find in the Danger Issue.
A first-hand account of a gator attack is one of four close calls you’ll find in the Danger Issue. Field & Stream

When I finally reached the edge of the dropoff, I felt as if I were standing on ice. I couldn’t hold my ground and kept sliding down that rock edge. At any second, I expected the current to sweep me downriver. No steelhead—not even 10—is worth this, I remember thinking. Ultimately, I decided to retreat to the drift boat. I never attempted a single cast.

I hadn’t thought about that experience for some time when we started putting our second digital edition of F&S—the Danger Issue—together. To be clear, the stories collected in this issue are a lot more exciting (and legitimately more dangerous) than that of some under-equipped angler standing on the edge of a slick rock. I’d much rather relive a wading scare than a gator attack, a bull-moose charge, or a marlin stabbing (all of which you’ll find in the Danger Issue). But the fear I felt in that moment was so real, so paralyzing, that I would’ve given anything to be airlifted off that river and taken home. Looking back, though, I can’t imagine that day on the Deschutes going any differently. And that element of danger certainly added some tension to the article I eventually wrote. 

Turns out, being scared to death can bring a story to life.

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