PAT NEAL: A special time of year

IT’S A SPECIAL time of year when friends and relations get together to celebrate the joy of the season.

Though the days be short, the temperatures brisk and the Thanksgiving leftovers have become the subject of a Food and Drug Administration medical advisory, this can be a time of celebration where we pause the chaos of our busy lives to reconnect with the central core of the human experience: Steelhead season.

Steelhead are a mythical creature that haunt the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula this time of year.

With steelhead fishing, as with other destructive, addictive behaviors that can ruin your life, preparation is the key.

People wonder what they need to go steelhead fishing.

First, ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place.

Maybe you enjoy enriching a bloated, corrupt government bureaucracy that sells you a fishing license then does its best to eliminate the fish you are fishing for.

You enjoy spending a fortune on gear that probably won’t work but it doesn’t matter because you’ll end up throwing it in the river with nothing to show for it anyway.

If so, steelhead fishing is for you.

The first thing you’ll need is a pair of rubber boots. They all have one thing in common: They leak, either out of the box or as soon as you get tangled up in the rusty barbed wire fence hidden in the blackberry vines.

At this point you will have two options: You can try patching the boots which almost never works or cut the boots off just below the location of the hole(s).

Using this technique, it’s possible to turn a leaky pair of boots into fashionable slippers.

Once you poke holes in the slippers don’t throw them away. They make a great fire-starters.

Next to a pair of boots a positive mental attitude is necessary for steelhead fishing.

As a fishing guide who fishes 500 days a year, I consistently get more bites than any other guide on the river.

Why? It’s a positive mental attitude where every bump bounce or pause of the gear is a bite, or what the government calls an “encounter,” or should be.

Steelhead fishing is a numbers game where the more fish you say you caught the more your fellow anglers think you are lying.

Fishing for steelhead is a team sport where each member of the team is required to know how many fish they allegedly caught.

With steelhead fishing as with politics, it helps to keep your story straight to avoid accusations of falsehood.

In the interest of transparency, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone in the boat understands the rules governing how we count fish so they can come up with the same number when asked by inquiring fellow anglers.

Let’s say you actually hook a fish. It happens.

If another angler or two tangles up with that fish it counts as two or even three fish caught.

What if you lose the fish? No problem, just say you touched the leader and it counts as a fish even if it was released in a remote location.

Known as the long-distance release, it can still count as a legitimate fish as long as there are no witnesses.

These fish accounting procedures don’t work if a game warden asks how many fish you caught.

Don’t lie to a fish cop. It’s against the law and they probably know the answer before they ask the question.

Just go with the embarrassing truth.

You didn’t catch anything.

That’s normal when fishing for a mythical creature.

_________

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 wildlife@gmail.com.

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