On the river to recovery

By now it has become apparent that my seasonal weather forecast was right.

So far the weather has been cold, dark and wet. Causing inquiring minds to ask, “What will it do to the fishing?”

Plenty, that’s what.

The November rains swelled the rivers up into the flood stage. There’s a popular misconception that floods are bad for fish but that is not true. The high water gives the fish a chance to escape the nylon pollution. Nylon pollution is a term I use for the increasing amounts of nylon fishing gear that clogs up our waters to the point where fish can no longer make it up the rivers.

Once the autumn rains start and the river gets high enough, it levels the playing field so no one can fish. This gives the fish a chance to swim high into the watershed to fill the creeks with spawners.

The high water cleans the summer’s growth of slime and algae from the rocks on the bottom of the river and loosens the gravel, making it easier for fish to dig their nests and spawn.

Floods landscape the rivers with backwaters, log jams, deep pools and shallow runs while flushing the spawned out salmon back to sea where they feed a new generation of life on the ocean floor.

After the floods of autumn we start fishing for the winter run steelhead. If you don’t know what a steelhead is, you probably aren’t from around here.

Steelhead are a type of rainbow trout that are born in a river then migrate out to the ocean. Just like the salmon the steelhead return to the rivers to spawn.

Unlike the salmon, steelhead don’t die after they spawn. They can return to the ocean and grow larger.

The fact is if you have lived your life so far without knowing what a steelhead is, you’re better off not knowing. Fishing for steelhead has been described as a form of frost-bit insanity with no known cure. There is a only a palliative therapy that can be as bad as the disease.

Ironically, some people begin steelhead fishing as the result of another winter malady — cabin fever. This is a debilitating condition that can cause people to sit on the couch and change the channels on the TV until their thumbs bleed.  It is at this point some cabin fever sufferers decide to go winter steelhead fishing.

While it is possible to fish here in the summer in shorts and tennis shoes, fishing in winter can require layers of rubber, neoprene, goose down, wool and fleece for survival.

Chances are by the time you put on enough clothes to stay warm while steelhead fishing you won’t be able to move.

That’s OK.

You may have what it takes to be a plunker. These are people who sit and wait for the fish to come to them. All you need is a large fire, patience and more patience. Others prefer casting their gear out into the river and bouncing it downstream until it snags on something.

Then you have break off your line and tie on something else. Typically, this will happen about every second or third cast.

This means you may need a large tackle box to go steelhead fishing. Buying steelhead tackle is a road to financial ruin made worse by the certain knowledge that you are just going to throw it in the river and lose it all anyway.

The fact is I wouldn’t recommend steelhead fishing to anyone.

Have to go now. It’s time for my steelhead therapy session.

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