“Down the Path” is a new podcast that follows the case of Ron Sheepstra, a fly angler who disappeared without a trace while wading the flats of Xcalak, Mexico. The podcast itself is a fascinating listen and is sure to pique the interest of any fly angler with an interest in true crime stories. We sat down with the host of the podcast, Will Rice to discuss more about the podcast and what inspired him to tell Ron’s story.
From Down the Path:
“On April 11, 2009, Ronald Scheepstra disappeared from Xcalak, Mexico.
Ron and his companions had been to this remote area on fishing trips in both 2007 and 2008 and, as avid fly anglers, had done extensive preparation and planning.
For reasons that are not completely known or understood, Ron broke away from his friends in the early afternoon that day. He reportedly climbed from the shallow water and as he began to walk down the path, called back, “You go on. I’ll be fine.”
Ron was never seen again.”
Flylords: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Will: I grew up in upstate New York and began fishing at a very young age. When I wasn’t fishing I spent time skateboarding, snowboarding and trying not to get lost in the woods. After graduating from college with a Journalism degree I immediately drove west to Colorado. I spent the next 20 years, fishing and exploring the mountains. As a freelance journalist my work has been featured in The Denver Post, The Drake Magazine, The Flyfish Journal, Fly Rod & Reel, Saltwater Fly Fishing, OutsideMagazine.com, and Angling Trade, among others.
Flylords: How did you first find out about Ron’s disappearance? What drew you to the story?
Will: I first learned about Ron’s case from a friend who had read the story in a publication called the Angling Report in the Spring of 2009. At the time I was contributing editor at the Drake Magazine and was always hunting for intriguing stories. On a short deadline, I turned around an abbreviated piece about the disappearance of Ron Scheepstra that was published in the Summer 2009 issue.
Two things have drawn and held my attention about this case: (1) as I learned more about Ron I realized he was very much like myself. He loved fly fishing, he loved to travel and to explore new water. I was doing a lot of the same type of travel and exploratory trips at the time so that personally resonated with me. (2) The second thing that has always nagged at me was the complete lack of evidence that turned up during the search effort. Something happened to Ron on April 11th, 2009 but there is simply no evidence that helps us understand what happened. I’m still vexed 10 years later.
Flylords: How long have you been following and investigating the experience?
Will: After I wrote the initial story in ’09, I would check online for updates weekly or monthly for about the next year. I was pretty sure something would turn up – and that Ron would be found. After that, I’d occasionally do a Google search and read what few updates were published. If you look at the history of Ron’s case, there is a spike of information in 2009 and then it quickly dissipates. I’d read different message boards and chat room discussions for the next few years. I followed the story sporadically like this until the spring of 2018 when I contacted Ron’s wife Cindy to see if she would participate in an interview and help me with a story about Ron’s case to mark the 10 year anniversary. The project began with the goal to produce a long-form article – which was completed and published by the FlyFish Journal in April 2019.
Flylords: How many episodes will Season 1 be made up of?
Will: The goal is to produce six episodes for Down the Path Season 1.
Flylords: What has it been like producing your own podcast?
Will: First off, a TON of credit needs to go to Jason Rolfe who is the Producer and Editor of Down the Path. I’ve had quite a few people comment on the sound production and pacing of the episodes those accolades all belong to Jason. In addition to his work with Down the Path, Jason is the Editor of The Flyfish Journal, as well as the creator and host of The Fly Tapes Podcast and host of the popular flyfishing reading series “Writers on the Fly.”
As far as the creation of a podcast, the interviews, and writing of the episodes, it has been an amazing experience. It has been a lot more work than I originally anticipated and it is always a little scary creating something new for the first time. I feel at this point, based on the reaction of listeners, that the story resonates with them and they understand what I’m trying to accomplish.
The interview process with the people you hear in the podcast has been another difficult element simply based on the topic and the details of what happened to Ron. I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their recollections about this event with me. These are the people and voices who really bring Ron’s story to life, even though it is very much a sad and heartbreaking story. It is clear that this is still a raw and painful subject to almost everyone who was involved. This project would not be possible without them.
People should not just disappear—to me the story and the case feels very unresolved and unbalanced, like an equation that just doesn’t add up.
The goal of the podcast is to tell Ron’s story in a way that it has never been told before. There is a longshot possibility that someone is out there who knows something – who has not spoken up before now – and who might come forward with new information and change how this story ends.