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The Gearboat Chronicles

How to handle getting skunked


Mount Joseph through the fog on commute to the river.

I got shut out on a steelhead excursion last week. It happens. My friends, however, were catching steelhead. And not just one or two. A few times they had the gall to do it right in front of me.


Fog gets worse on the drive to the river. Bad omen of things to come.

Cam Scott should be ashamed of himself. At the end of the day he had his three hatchery fish limit all bagged up and ready for seasoning. He had let another hatchery fish go, as it was a wee jack on the questionable side of 20”. Scott also landed two wild fish in the upper-20s. Plus a few other hookups that got off. Ridiculous.


Yeah, great. Reeeeal happy for you.

Fishing cohort Mike Baird, on this same outing, landed three wild steelhead. Great job, Mike!


What a jerk.

While all this was going on I managed to not disturb a single fish. Not a trout. Not a whitefish. I did come into contact with submerged sticks. Hooked a few rocks, bushes, tree limbs, myself. But when reached for comment about my poor performance on that particular day, a spokesperson for the fish released the following statement: “He was fishing that day? Huh. Didn’t know.”

When your fishing buddies run hot and the steelhead just don’t get your drift, it’s tempting to take your frustrations out by assaulting the other fishermen physically. Go ahead. It helps. It really does. They’ll think you’re playing around so don’t worry about telegraphing your punches. Just walk up and begin unleashing haymakers. Remember to rotate your hips, really swivel them and get your whole body into it. And follow through, for Pete’s sake. You’ve got to punch through your target. Aim for several inches beyond your fishing buddy’s smug face. That’s the secret to really getting some power into your blows.

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Stay down. You’re done fishing for the day.

Once you’ve gotten that negative energy out, let bygones be bygones and concentrate on improving your performance. The first step to increasing your stats is to level the playing field by removing any evidence that other people have caught fish that day. Easy enough. Just root through the pockets of your friends while they’re still dazed, locate their cameras and delete any photos taken that day. Throw any fish they have kept into the bushes. The raccoons need to eat too.

Now we can focus on what steps you can take to turn it around. Don’t make the usual mistake of wasting time by changing your fishing tactics. Whatever you’ve got tied on is fine. Don’t adjust your depth, target different water or any of that nonsense. Consistency is key. The fish want to be stubborn? Fine. Two can play that game. Just keep doing what you’re doing and they’ll come around.

By being consistent and laying a beatdown on anybody else who catches, or even tries to catch a fish, they will learn to give you first crack at any run. In the absence of other fly presentations, your rig will look that much better and soon you’ll be firing up the grill for tasty, fresh steelhead fillets.


They’re vulnerable here. Optimal time to attack.

If the skunking continues, repeat these steps and think about adding combinations to your punches. If that still doesn’t bring your luck around, you may consider bathing in tomato juice and burning a scented candle. Also remember to wear your lucky boxer shorts, longjohns and any other article of clothing that was on your person during days when you did catch fish. The proper gear is essential.

Hope these tips help. Tight lines. And remember to follow through. Really snap those hips.