Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Whatever your preferred platform, social media is likely the second biggest problem facing Olympic Peninsula (OP) wild steelhead (I think you probably know what the first one is so I won't go any further into that). Recreational anglers from decades past would monitor river flows, call friends/family/strangers to get a fishing report prior to the last dump of rain and adjust our schedules to fish any place there were steelhead. Driving all night to the Grande Rhonde in October to fish a day and a half and drive back home? Absolutely! Head to the OP in January, braving driving rain and low temperatures, in HOPES of finding a few early fish? Without a second thought! Take a chance and head to some off the grid river in Washington because you heard from Paul’s brother’s barber that the river MIGHT be holding fish and every other river in the area is blown? In a heartbeat! . Some of those trips were EPIC and some were just so- so, that's how steelheading goes (or at least how it used to go). Recreational anglers and guides from out of the area now refer to social media posts for up to the minute fishing conditions. That's a BIG problem because as soon as the fishing gets REALLY good, there are a ton of anglers swarming to the rivers of the north coast in a magnitude of which I've never seen before. I recently had a large outfitter from out of the area post a picture of a client with a nice Hoh buck to their own business Facebook page, bragging about the big one that one of "their clients" caught. I was a little floored and pissed at the same time. Are you kidding me? The clients took the photo and texted it to a buddy and pretty soon it's like a wildfire, totally out of control! These guys were not out there, grinding it out, figuring out channel changes, where the good slots are, access changes etc. They just look to every guide and buddy that's posting virtually everything you'd want to know all over the web. Even worse, they just show up blindly and start putting their boat in the water when they have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Last year, to my knowledge, nine boats went down on the Hoh due to inexperience. I helped out a couple of these boats myself, in addition to helping inexperienced anglers/boaters choose the correct channel. I also had to help a guide going the wrong way and bailed him out of a bad situation when he was with clients. I can't imagine taking clients on a float I was not intimately familiar with, I might ask a buddy to endanger himself but a paying client, no way. The most comical thing I saw last year was a recreational boat actually putting in at the park boundary sign on the Hoh. Uhhh, Buddy, the park line put in isn't actually at the sign. He drug a raft 40 yards through an Alder thicket to put in...Wow I thought, you have to appreciate his effort. When we floated by while he was loading up his gear he looked at us like, “Where the hell did you come from”? I just smiled and waived.
All of this makes it tough for the guy who puts in his time, studying and learning the river and who shows up to the river just to have a dozen boats put in behind him because of what they saw on social media. I have learned a valuable lesson from the actions of social media users. I won't be posting pictures of giant steelhead during the season, create posts about how good the fishing was today, list areas where there's a pile of fish or share what's working at the moment. If you want to know those kinds of details...call me. If I know who you are or if you want to book a guide day, I'll likely give you some information. If it sounds like your just fishing for information, then you are probably going to get some fish stories. One day while on a trip with clients, we were having a pretty successful day. Every angler we passed on the river was asking if we were gettin' any, meaning they weren't. My pat answer, as always, was "a few here and there". My customer remarked that, “Your like the Sphinx.” I had to think about that for a minute and that's when it occurred to me, he was spot on. For years, I have naturally minimized (guarded) the amount of information that I give to other anglers in preservation of something dear to me. And this is exactly what the OP is sorely missing. Everyone wants to brag about and share photos of the latest fish caught five minutes after it hits the net. Very few things that are within our control could be more damaging to this amazing place and the fish that inhabit these rivers.
It's possible to love something to death...and for the wild steelhead of the OP, I won't do it. I can only hope that others will do the same, some already are.