PAT NEAL: The (honestly true!) fishing report

“HOW’S THE FISHING?”

If I only had a dollar for every time I answered that question.

Inquiring minds want to know before they go if fishing is worth the effort.

Often the average fishing report is a mix of truth, rumor and half-truths that defy a normal person’s concept of reality as we know it.

Many people with fishing problems wouldn’t know the truth if it snagged them with a single barbless hook.

The delusional tendencies that blur the line between fantasy and reality are further scrambled in the modern age of information in which we live, where it is possible to share with the world through the miracle of the internet the lurid details of every fish you catch almost before you catch it.

This is a murky world of mystery and intrigue where failure is not an option but it happens anyway, where every fish must be bigger than the one your friends didn’t catch, as documented on the latest cellphone technology.

There was one particularly desperate case; we’ll call him Randy, because that’s his name.

He sent a picture of a fish he said he just caught to a friend fishing downriver, forgetting that you have no friends on the river.

The friend replied that it was a nice fish, but how did his dog get in Randy’s picture?

Randy was busted. He’d broken the No. 1 unwritten law among the brotherhood of anglers: He was documented pandering blatant untruths.

While this may be perfectly acceptable standard operating procedure for politicians, government officials and fisheries biologists, misleading a fellow angler with a less-than-truthful fishing report is a black mark that can never be erased on the soul of a true fisherman.

There are many excuses for filing a false fishing report. I must have heard every fishing excuse there is, but they all boil down to the same thing.

It’s part of an inbred defense mechanism that fosters a delusional concept of self-worth.

It’s a well-known fact that the angler’s ego can be as fragile as the most delicate ecosystem.

To bolster these questionable self-esteem issues, it is sometimes necessary to employ a form of accounting wherein every number is either divided or multiplied depending on who you are talking to.

For example, on a recent early morning fishing adventure, we caught four steelhead, six chinook salmon, four sockeye salmon, a sturgeon and a peacock bass. Then I woke up.

The rest of the day was like a bad dream of lost fish, tangled lines and broken rods. All we caught was a bull trout.

Later that same day during a guide’s safety meeting, a fellow professional claimed he caught six steelhead, eight chinook and 12 sockeyes — all of which were caught without benefit of any photographic evidence.

Ironically, I was the one charged with filing a false fishing report. The ingrates figured I said I only caught a bull trout in an effort to conceal the location of the really good fishing.

If you think getting the numbers of fish caught is a pointless effort in a toxic fantasy, dealing with weights and measurements of any particular fish is equally challenging.

It is a well-known fact that fish can continue to grow long after they are freezer-burnt.

I once knew of a 20-pound steelhead that grew a pound a year until it weighed 26 pounds.

I’ve seen 30-pound king salmon grow to 50 pounds in a year or less.

With the recent state proposal to make fishing guides keep log books, I’m sure they will get some really great data.

_________

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 patneal [email protected].

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