Radical Recreation: Against the current

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Evan Withrow shows off the catch of the day on one of his many fishing adventures around the state. Withrow hopes his degree program will allow him to travel the world on fly fishing expeditions. Photo credit: Evan Withrow

Born and raised in Alaska, Evan Withrow, mechanical engineering major, was exposed to fishing at a young age when his father was a guide on the Kenai River for King Salmon. Withrow has been fishing most of his life. However, he found a love for fly fishing about three years ago in South Dakota, where he was previously working towards a degree in mechanical engineering before moving back to Alaska.

“One summer, I was about to head back to South Dakota and I asked my dad if I could take his old fly rods with me down there. One of my good buddies knew his way around the water so he helped teach me the ins and outs of it,” Withrow said. “Little did I know, the Black Hills of South Dakota was a little gold mine for fly fisherman.”

Withrow’s love for fly fishing continued and allowed him to travel to places he may have never been exposed to if it wasn’t for fly fishing.

“Fly fishing has taken me to some of the coolest places I have ever been,” Withrow said. “The pursuit of big or small fish in rivers and streams that most people never get to see is why fishing is a passion of mine.”

Fishing can be known as a great time to be independent and gather thoughts. While being alone can be soothing, Withrow also cherishes moments spent with friends fishing and sharing the rewarding feeling of a catch.

“Sometimes when I fish, it’s about the solitude and being alone out there, it’s relaxing. It’s a quick escape from reality, but sometimes when I fish, I want to be on the water with my friends,” Withrow said. “There’s something pretty special about one of your best friends netting one of your biggest fish and celebrating with you.”

One of Withrow’s favorite moments in his fishing experience is when he stopped in Wyoming with a friend on his drive from South Dakota to Alaska to attend UAA.

“We fished a stretch of water known as The Wind River, which is just the small portion of the Bighorn River that’s located on the Indian Reservation. It’s a stretch of water that parallels a highway through one of the coolest canyons anyone can ever be in,” Withrow said. “The water is fast, kind of tricky to get down to, and not easy to fish. We must have timed the fish correctly cause these fish were crushing everything and every fish was a quality one. Between my friend and I, we landed well over 75 fish; brown trout and rainbow trout and almost every single fish was over 20 inches.”

Withrow spends a great amount of time fishing in the summer time but also continues to fish throughout all seasons of the year.

“In the spring, summer and fall I fish as many days as possible. Last summer, I fished every day for about 75 straight days. It helped that I worked a full-time job inside of the campground where I fished,” Withrow said. “In the wintertime, I try to sneak out on weekends that are ‘less cold.’”

Because fishing is such a big part of Withrow’s life, he claims that he will continue fishing until he needs a walker, but even then he will still be found on the water. Currently, Withrow is focusing on his degree and hopes to finish school within the next year. With his degree, Withrow plans to use it for a job that will allow him to fish in exotic places.

“My goal in life with my degree is to make enough money that I can take all of the exotic fishing trips that I want without having to stress too much about it,” Withrow said. “I want to go to Iceland, New Zealand, Christmas Island and even Russia.”

Although a great fisherman never gives up his secret spots, Withrow recommends individuals to give fishing a shot. He explains that fly fishing can be tricky at first, but, after a while, it’ll be easier to get the hang of, like all hobbies. Those who love to travel and spend time on the water, fishing might be a relaxing yet exciting activity like it is for Withrow.