There is probably nothing more beautiful than a river in the snow. We are fishing for the winter steelhead, the giant sea-run rainbow that may be the sole purpose of enduring a winter on the Olympic Peninsula. Just seeing a steelhead on the end of a line thrashing on the surface or cart-wheeling down the river with the red of the sunrise reflecting on its silver sides can have an amazing effect on the human metabolism. Hooking a steelhead can actually increase a person's temperature to the point where they do not notice the cold until it is too late. Hypothermia is only one of many hazards of winter fishing that people who fish for steelhead care nothing about.
As a guide who fishes five hundred days a year I feel preparation is the key to a quality steelhead fishing experience. We'll start with the steelhead fishing diet which relies heavily on the three basic food groups, sugar, grease and alcohol. With the proper diet the fisherman can put on an extra thick layer of fur and blubber to protect them from the icy winds of winter.
Winter clothing is important. Especially since the nude fishing discount ended last summer. Your most important item of clothing could be your choice of boots. Take it from me the right boots can make the difference between endless hours of bone-chilling cold and amputation from frostbite induced gangrene.
A good pair of boots is important. It is even more important to not have a hole in either one of them. It is a curious law of science that the same water that leaks into a boot will seldom leak out again. Leaky boots can be patched but this is often a futile effort you discover when it is too late, you have wet feet. I like to recycle my old boots into holiday gift items for friends, family and co-workers. For example, this year I’m making custom computer mouse pads out of my old boots for everyone in the newsroom! It’s really the thought that counts.
Meanwhile I slipped on a pair of fancy new boots in that made me feel like a million bucks, for a while. Felt soles can make your feet stick to the bottom of the river like glue. That was cool until I got out of the river and the felt soles froze and caked up with snow until they looked like a pair of hillbilly ice skates.
It would be daylight soon. There was no time to thaw out my boots. I had to launch before the barbarian hordes, (other fishermen) showed up to make a traffic jam that looked like a Nascar race with fishing poles. Driving down the icy boat launch was out. I might never drive out again. There was only one thing to do. Gently slide the boat down on the snow. I gave a little push. The boat shot away into the darkness like a runaway bobsled. I held on.
Sliding down the hill in the dark I wondered how many other Olympic sports had been invented by accident. Few could rival the adrenal rush of riding a boat down a hill with a rushing river at the bottom of it.
I picked up speed. It might have been an unofficial boat skiing record. It was going to make a big splash, somewhere. Then we hit a thin layer of sand that ground the boat to a sudden halt. It was a perfect four point landing, another successful launch! We floated into the vapors with a wild joy on our heart strings.