When the first movie trailer for The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in the winter of 1979, the world went crazy. Two and a half years of anticipation had hit the boiling point. But rather than letting off steam, the trailer turned up the heat and compressed our yearning for more. Meltdown would have been imminent if the film had not finally opened that summer. Miraculously, the film delivered all that had been promised. It blew fans away with richer characters, better effects and a more compelling story. That summer took Hollywood to a whole new echelon, and for us fans, it was definitive.
In the microcosm of Northwest steelheading culture, a similar, if less dramatic threshold lies ahead with the promised summer release of Skagit Master, the new film by Jeff Mishler. Steelhead fanatics throughout the Northwest have come to idolize Ed Ward, the mysterious real-life guru of Skagit-style fly fishing. And while some of Ed’s unwanted celebrity has been spun by marketers and peddlers, the true story of Ed Ward is sure to deliver on its promise. Ed is the innovator of the lion’s share of our modern tools and techniques, and he is the steelheader we all wish we could be. Mishler knows all about it. He was among the first steelheaders to recognize Ed’s gifts, to understand what Ed was doing to our sport. Jeff is also one of the most gifted photographers of our time, and an exceptional cinematographer to boot. So nothing in this fishy world could be more appropriate than a film about Ed, by Jeff. Can you tell I’m excited?
If you have never frozen your hands to the bone for days on end in pursuit of winter steelhead, then Skagit Master might not mean much to you. If you have never camped on the rivers edge in the pouring rain, day after soggy day, just for the chance of hooking a wild winter steelhead, then don’t bother watching the movie trailer below. But if you have it in you, you know it. And for those who do, get ready for painful anticipation…