PAT NEAL: All new fishing excuses

IT HAPPENS EVERY year about this time.

People start whining about the sunny weather and wishing for rain, forgetting the warning about getting what you want. Or how once the rain is turned on there is no way to turn it off.

The gentle patter of rain on the roof gradually ascends into a steady pounding that says you will not be fishing today. At least you’d better hope not.

Fishing during the first storm of autumn can be good for catching sticks, leaves and globs of algae but it can be plenty tough to catch a salmon. Even when the fish are there.

As they were the other day. Fish were coming up the river in waves.

The rod on the right side of the boat bent double so we knew it was a pretty good bite and sure enough, whatever was hooked up was not coming in without a fight in the fast water.

I told my fancy friend this was his sport fishing adventure of a lifetime.

It might have been until we saw he was hooked up to a big blob of algae that looked like a composting jellyfish.

In short, it was one of those magic days on the river when no matter what you threw at the fish, they were too busy to bite.

They were migrating upriver in the slurry of brown water, leaves and pond scum that freshens the gravel on the spawning beds in the bottoms of our rivers every year.

It’s scant consolation if it happens on the day you’re fishing and not catching them.

That’s where a good supply of fishing excuses can come in handy.

When making fishing excuses, it’s best to eliminate blame, guilt and shame from the equation as soon as possible.

There are many other natural conditions you can hang your hat on. The color of the water is one of the best sources of fishing excuses.

The water is commonly just too clear or too dirty to catch fish in.

Last week you could throw a lure in the river and the fish would scatter like scared rabbits.

This week, the river is a slurry too-thin-to-plow and too-thick-to-drink that you couldn’t see an inch in.

You’d have to beat the fish over the head with a lure to hook one, which is probably illegal, fishing laws being what they are these days.

Fishing laws are another excellent fishing excuse.

Our rivers used to be a place where we could fill up the smoke house.

These days, our rivers are a place for do-gooders to fill out their resumes and make up new laws closing down the fishing.

Of course, we could have some really good fishing this time of year but they shut down the best rivers.

It’s a fishing excuse no one can argue with.

Still, even the best fishing excuse in the world doesn’t work that well when the salmon are jumping all around you, one or two at a time.

That’s when the old guides bring out the big guns — the barometric pressure, phase of the moon and tidal rhythm.

These are conditional excuses that have served us well, even back in the good old days before we really needed excuses.

I have used all them all.

There is however one fishing excuse you should never use under any condition not covered by death, divorce or incarceration.

If you are asked why you didn’t get a fish blame the weather, the moon or the government.

Do not, under any circumstances, say you didn’t get a fish because you didn’t go fishing.


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

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