Outdoor Storytellers – Half A World Away

A solider who recently returned from combat in Iraq, recalls being motivated by the thought of once again fishing with his brother along the Snake River.

Dustin Elben is from Clarkson, Washington, but he says that a picture of a steelhead the he and his brother, Eric, caught near their hometown is what kept him going during combat.

At 27 years old, Eric is the older of the two brothers and he works for beamers as a fishing guide in Clarkston. Dustin is 25 years old and he is a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 659th Engineering Company out of Spokane.

The two seem to be leading completely different lives, but one afternoon the two decided to take us out on the river to show us their passion.

“You take it for granted,” Dustin said. “Most people don’t have the kind of fishing or hunting or camping activities like we do here. Once you’re gone from it you realize how special it is around here.”

Dustin knows what it is like to leave his hometown as he recently returned from an 18-month deployment to Iraq, spending 12 months in country and not being able to come home.

“An example is, during the elections in Baghdad, we fortified some of the polling stations so you know, if they were to get attacked, they were built up a little. They could with stain that blast,” Dustin said.

However, before he left for that most recent tour of duty, Dustin caught an 18-pound steelhead while fishing with his brother Eric, and the picture of that fish carried each of them along way back home.

“I was able to take that picture with me and I hung it up on my wall-locker while I was deployed,” Dustin said. “It was always nice to be able to look at that pretty much every day. And remember, you know, this was what I was able to do before I left and something I’ll be able to do when I get back.”

The only reminder of fishing, aside from the picture, came to him every once in a while when he would see a lone boat in the Euphrates River outside of Baghdad.

“It’s a completely different world and I’m in my uniform and I’m in my body armor,” Dustin said. “But just two days ago I was home fishing with my brother. It’s cool to be able to have that picture to have that memory because often times it’s hard to remember that’s where you were not too long ago.”

The memories, the pictures, and their time on the river explain why the Elben brothers will never forget fishing for steelhead along the Snake River.