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Local fly fisherman finds peace in sport and community while battling cancer

“I think that’s an incredible experience, and I’m grateful for fly fishing to give that relationship to my dad and I"

ST. LOUIS — Seven years ago, St. Louis native Chris Steuterman began fly fishing as a hobby in his spare time. A sport that is considered an art.

“Got my start when my dad brought a rod home from Colorado, and I just hung out in the backyard,” Chris Steuterman said. “Tried to cast as much as I could until I built up enough confidence to go into the stream.”

Unlike spin fishing, fly fishing takes many people years to master. 

Fly fishing is an angling method done with a rod and a light-weight lure, called an artificial fly, to catch with.

Rods range in size and material. Some fly fishermen create their own rods out of bamboo. Many also tie their own artificial flies using an array of materials ranging from feathers to silk.

Chris Steuterman is one of three boys in the Steuterman family, and as the only fly fisherman of the group, he pursued the sport as a solo mission at first.

It would be one of the only activities he pursued alone from the start. He and his father, John Steuterman, did everything else together. Activities like golfing and shooting.

But that would change following John Steuterman’s cancer diagnosis four years ago.

“That forced my retirement,” John Stueterman said. “It forced me to sideline from a lot of athletics that I used to do. Balanced hearing is gone. There were a lot of complications.”

“It limited what he could do,” Chris Steuterman said. “And he saw me fooling around with this fly rod that he owned. And I said, ‘We should give this a whirl. I’ve been out on the stream a few times and it’s a lot of fun, it’s incredibly relaxing, but there’s also a little bit of a drive to find the fish.’”

“I began to scratch my head, and I said, ‘Well maybe I should look at this,’” John Steuterman said. “And I never really dabbled with it because I didn’t have anyone to do it with. So I came back to St. Louis, and my son Chris said, ‘Well here’s what we need to do.’ So on Father’s Day, about three years ago, he said, ‘I’m going to take you fly fishing.”

And that’s where the journey took off. 

“We went to Westover, which is a fishery down in Steelville," John Steuterman said. “And because the Lord said, ‘You’re gonna catch a fish,’ I did. I caught a fish. The first fish. It was very, very cool.”

Soon enough John Steuterman was hooked. But having been primarily self-taught, realized he could use a little help with mastering the sport. 

John Steuterman became a member of the Ozark Fly Fishers Club ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2021.

“We do quite a bit of education,” Ozark Fly Fishers President Dan Rasch said. “We have classes we give on fly tying and fishing both. We do casting lessons.”

The Ozark Fly Fishers club is a St. Louis, Missouri-based fly-fishing and conservation organization affiliated with the Federation of Fly Fishers.

The group’s primary goals are to promote the sport, provide education, advice, and assistance to members, and practice conservation of natural resources to benefit the local environment.

Members meet monthly for a meeting, but also gather for events and fishing trips at some of the most popular fishing spots around the state.

As a member of the club, John Steuterman began attending meetings, learning how to tie flies and how to best master the sport.

But perhaps more importantly, the club provides camaraderie for John and more than 150 members. It’s people of all different walks of life who all share one thing in common.

“There’s something, I don’t know, metaphysical, spiritual, whatever, that comes from fly fishing,” Ozark Fly Fishers member Chris Friesen said. “The experience of being on the stream, the sound of the water, the wind in the trees, that’s mystical.” 

John Stueterman said sometimes that atmosphere is exactly what he needs right now. A sport he can escape through during the highs and lows of life.

“I’m losing control of my right arm because of the cancer, and the surgery,” John Stueterman said. “So, to hit a golf club is not easy to do anymore, but fly fishing I can do.”

John Steuterman has a new community helping him along the way as he battles cancer, and masters a new sport. Plus, a chance to build memories with his son, regardless of life’s circumstances.

“I value the time I get to break away from normal life, and get down to the streams with my dad,” Chris Steuterman said. “I think that’s an incredible experience, and I’m grateful for fly fishing to give that relationship to my dad and I.” 

For more information on The Ozark Fly Fishers Club, visit https://www.ozarkflyfishers.org/.


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