From the Vault: Bill Schaadt

If you didn’t know already, Bill Schaadt was an icon in northwest U.S. steelheading long before fly fishing for steelhead became a cult itself. He was, according to everyone who fished near him (not many fished “with” him, since he fished so hard and so expertly), one of the most talented anglers ever to hold a fly rod. As an example, in a recent interview I conducted with Guy de la Valdene, he described Schaadt fishing in Key West harbor in the early 1970s while Valdene and the “Tarpon” film crew partied away the evening on the Key West waterfront:
“He had some sort of a funny little rowboat and we were all having some drinks at the Chart Room or at the hotel that sticks out on the water there and you’d see him out there, at night, just dredging, and jumping the %@!#& out of tarpon. Like a lot of them. Like every 8 or 10 minutes Kaboom!, you know, something would happen. He was just a magnificent fly caster, and I’m sure there are people nowadays who are as good or better, and probably hundreds of them, but in our days, Bill Schaadt was something.”
Some nominal digging turned up this piece from the archives of Sports Illustrated, in which Russell Chatham — who probably sat there with de la Valdene and watched Schaadt dredging tarpon in Key West — describes the legendary demeanor: “Transported, he would turn to follow the progress of his line downstream until a salmon took, then he would outline the peculiarities of the struggle as he battled the lunging monster to a standstill near the sink. Once again I was under the spell of the only man I know whose every thought, action and possession is a cohesive, unified extension of himself, like the spokes of a wheel coming into contact with the encompassing rim.”

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