The following is part of a study guide for my Fishing The Olympics Class At Peninsula College:
How's the fishing? If I had a buck for every time I heard that question I wouldn't waste my time as a wilderness gossip columnist.
The fact is the fishing is bad and getting worse. As a fishing guide it is my job to convince the potential angler that steelhead are teetering on the verge of extinction.
It's no different than a lawyer telling a client they got a hanging judge that will probably fry them. Or a surgeon saying it's a tough operation but you might live anyway.
It is my practice to inform the potential angler “they should have been here a hundred years ago because even if you understand the fishing laws, battle the crowds and pack your pepper spray, you need a miracle to catch a steelhead these days.”
Then I look like a fishing genius if we catch one.
It's all part of the seamy underbelly of the sport fishing industry. Where the unsuspecting angler is subjected to a series of degrading hazing rituals that begin before the trip even starts.
It is a well-known fact that the stress and horror of modern life has turned America into a nation of insomniacs. It's seems like everyone is sleep deprived.
That's why we get them up in the middle of the night to go fishing. The subject, the lucky angler, is led to believe it is important to be on the water at daylight, where they sit in the first light waiting for that first strike, only to be informed the fish really don't bite until ten in the morning anyway.
That's when I tell them to relax and have a nice cup of coffee. Many times on a winter steelhead fishing trip, this coffee is frozen solid in the cup by now.
I offer to chip the coffee out with a knife I've been using to clean the fish. This makes for a fish flavored espresso that could indicate just how bad you need your morning coffee.
Chances are you'll need that morning coffee pretty bad by now.
Sitting in the dark in a river, where it rains more than 200 inches a year, it all seems to be running down the back of your neck.
With a brisk wind fresh off the Pacific blowing the anchor loose and setting the overhanging trees rocking in crazy circles, you discover that all rain gear isn't waterproof. You try hard to stay awake while wondering if it is a symptom, of the final stage of hypothermia.
It is often during the final stages of hypothermia the angler can become incoherent and start a rambling conversation or worse, ask a question such as, “How will I know if I get a bite?”
“You'll know,” I explain. “That's when the screaming starts.”
It's when you get a bite that most of the trouble starts on a fishing trip.
People generally react by “setting the hook” just like they saw on a bass fishing show on TV. This can jerk the lure right out of the fish's mouth.
It is much better to wait and let the fish set it's own hook.
Patience is a rare virtue. Often the only way to give the fish time to bite is to convince the angler that it's not a fish at all. They're snagged up to the bottom.
When the fish jumps I act surprised and tell them to control their fish.
Controlling the fish is as important as it is impossible. The fish has a good chance of getting away. That's when you'll need an excuse.
Next: Fishing excuses I have used.