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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fishing for excuses

You see a lot of strange things on the rain forest rivers of the Olympic Peninsula’s West End.
I'll never forget the morning there was a mysterious bright light shining through the fog. The light appeared to be moving slowly upward and getting brighter until you could hardly look at it.
Disturbed, I was about to dial 911 but I couldn't remember the number. I tried to remain calm so my fancy friends in the front of my boat wouldn't panic.
“That sun sure feels good,” one of them said, trying to put up a brave front.
“Oh yes, the sun,” I said like it hadn't been raining for so long I forgot what the sun looked like. It was pretty.
The sunshine reflected across the smooth green surface of the water to the white-barked alder forest that lined the shore. After a while the temperature soared to over 40 degrees, which is just too darned hot for me to fish.
Some people claim they like sunshine and blue skies but that's not what we call steelhead weather. For that we need the rain that makes the rivers that bring in the fish.
Unfortunately if you fish around here long enough chances are you're going to have to figure out how to fish in the sun once in a while.
If you have to fish in the sun, try to keep it behind you, it makes it's easier to spot fish. This time of year with a pair of polarized glasses you can watch the steelhead dig their redds or nests in the gravel at the bottom of the river.
These fish are dark colored and easy to spot. More difficult to see are the fresh out of the ocean steelhead that we are fishing for. They are blue-grey and appear as nothing more than a shadow of a ghost.
I think it's better to fish with the sun shining up the river, the same way the fish are facing. That way the fish have the sun at their backs and they can see the lures coming downstream flashing in the sunlight a good long ways.
Fortunately most of our rivers flow in a westerly direction, which means the sun doesn't shine up the river until the afternoon. This is an excellent excuse to sleep in and not go fishing early.
Fish with the sun shining up the river and you've got no excuse to not catch fish, even on a sunny day. So I put the gear out in a desperate bid to catch a fish, an excuse or both.
Almost immediately it was fish on!
Before we could catch a glimpse of the brute, it dove under a spruce limb that stuck out in the river. At a time like that, it's like we say in the woods, “a man's best friend is a good sharp ax.”
I wished I had one, hacking at the iron hard spruce limb with a dull hatchet as the line peeled off the reel at an alarming rate.
There is only one hope at a time like that. Give the fish enough slack line and it might untangle itself. Instead our angler punched the free spool button, which made the reel explode into a bird’s nest of tangled line.
 Just then the fish rolled at the surface, splashing right next the boat. I tried to net it but the sun was in my eyes.
The fish dove. The line broke. I really should have used the heavier stuff.
Those are my excuses anyway.


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