PAT NEAL: Prognosticating the steelhead season

LATELY I’VE HEARD people say this is the most wonderful time of the year and who could argue with that?

I’m not talking about Christmas.

The tidings of comfort and joy thing has evolved into a marathon of marketing that determines the health of our nation’s economy.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the holidays.

That’s because they keep other people off the water.

This is very important now that the winter-run steelhead season has opened.

This year’s steelhead season has brought record crowds to the North Olympic Peninsula, which is good news to the tackle stores.

Catching a steelhead is a life-long dream for many people with fishing problems.

These are finicky fish that can be difficult to catch.

Some believe they can accomplish this life goal by purchasing enough fishing gear to finance a third world nation.

What might appear as a hoarding disorder to many could merely be the tackle collection of an average steelheader.

The steelhead has been called “the fish of a thousand casts.”

Many of these casts end up with the gear snagged on the bottom of the river to what we call a rock fish.

Many other casts will arc gracefully into the trees in a fancy maneuver we call fishing for squirrels.

Rest assured, no squirrels have ever been accidentally harmed by fishing gear and the trees that are hooked are carefully released after putting up a good fight that they generally always win.

Steelhead fishing is often negatively impacted by the crowds of fellow anglers that flock to the water the minute some fake news-reporting wilderness gossip columnist blabs about the good fishing.

The shoreline can get so crowded you have to bring your own rock to stand on to fish along the river.

Floating the river can be like a cross between a roller derby with rubber boots and a NASCAR race with fishing poles.

The weather is typically a wet, freezing cold that defines a condition somewhere between frostbite and hypothermia that we call steelhead weather.

As a guide who fishes 500 days a year, people have been asking me for the latest steelhead prognostications on the coming year.

Will the steelhead fishing be hot or not?

Far be it from me to use this valuable print space to peddle numbers of paper fish that might or might not represent an actual run on planet Earth.

What do you think, I’m a biologist or something?

My steelhead season prediction is based on a bedrock of irrefutable scientific evidence backed by years of watching football.

Maybe you remember the bad old days, when watching a Seahawks game was a futile lesson in losing.

Fans were so embarrassed they would rather go fishing instead.

That was then.

Once the Seahawks won a Super Bowl, things changed dramatically.

Everyone became a fan.

The 12 phenomenon produced a rabid legion of fans that transmogrified football into a social movement that begged the question: What will it do to the fishing?

At first, we had no idea why the rivers and the roads leading to them were empty and depopulated every Sunday.

After years of careful observation, it became readily apparent that as long as the Seahawks were winning, the rivers and the roads to them were almost deserted.

Now, with their recent victory over the Eagles, the Seahawks have a good chance of going all the way.

Steelhead fishing should be awesome.

Go Hawks.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected]

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