Floating the Sol Duc lately someone asked for advice about floating the Sol Duc River. I said be sure to put the plug in your boat. Floating the Sol Duc is a thrilling whitewater adventure. It can be even more exciting when your boat is filling up with water. Sure water only weighs eight pounds per gallon but it adds up in hurry and sloshes back and forth throwing you off balance. Rowing a drift boat is like a lot of other things. Once you lose balance you lose control. You want to stop in a calm place where you can find your plug and get control but you have to slow down to anchor up. Drop your anchor in the wrong hole and it could get stuck and flip you over if the water’s fast enough. Maybe you’ll cut your anchor free, leaving the rope for other anglers to snag up and break their gear off on. While you spin wildly along until hearing from the front of the boat, someone wishes to employ the restroom facilities. There are none. With a plea of desperation you approach the rocky shore at high speed.
Sometimes the Sol Duc looks like its more rock than river. The rocks are composed of undersea basalt, metamorphosed sediments and glacial erratics that can really ring your bell if you hit them right. You never know how fast you’re going until you stop. The impact slams the crew in a heap. The fleeing passengers attempt to exit the craft. One steps over the upstream side of the boat, where the gunnels catches a foot, tripping him into the water headfirst. Fortunately he’s wearing a life jacket. One of the fancy new ones that inflates automatically on contact with the water, even if, as in this case, it’s only an inch deep. Our angler erupts from the frozen mud bath with a roaring growl to thrash through the underbrush in his life jacket like a wild beast searching for the solitude of the rainforest. It’s just this sort of behavior that could explain the recent rash of Bigfoot sightings in the area.
Do not be afraid. Like the Bigfoot, tourists are large, friendly and curious. They come to the Olympic Peninsula because it’s one of the last best places where you can still catch a steelhead. These sea-going rainbow trout run up the rivers in winter. This is a time when much of the areas two hundred plus inches of rain per year can hit all at once, with a tailwind. It’s an atmospheric condition you’d have to be out of your mind to fish in, otherwise known as, “steelhead weather”. Knowing the steelhead fishermen are insane is a key to understanding their behavior. For example, if you are on the river and the crowds of tourist fishermen are so thick it appears you are about to be rammed by another boat, do not be alarmed. They probably just want to see what you are using for bait. Maybe you should take a tip from rush hour driving on the freeway and put rear view mirrors on your boat to avoid collisions.
Be sure to bring a lunch on your Sol Duc river float trip. You never know when you might enjoy a waterlogged sandwich soaked in bilge water. Include a survival kit with anti-anxiety medication, valid will and a notebook to jot down any final thoughts to loved ones. That, with a boat plug and a rear view mirror could make or break your trip. It’ll all be worthwhile when the steelhead is roasting over the coals.