April is a great time to experience some of the best steelhead fishing in the world, on the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh River. Yesterday, April 9th, friend Robert and I joined famed steelhead guide, Pat Neal for a 10 mile float on the lower Hoh River.
Our float began at the Cottonwood Campground and wound 10 miles downriver to a private land pullout that costs $5 upon retrieving your drift boat.
During our float trip, Pat Neal entertained us with stories of Mick Dodge, local politics and of course plenty of fishing stories. Pat has been a full time guide since the mid 1980s and also writes for the Peninsula Daily News, as a “Wilderness Gossip Columnist.” I’d heard stories of Pat for years and now I know why. He is super humble with his expert skills, claiming not to be the best guide, just friendliest. His intimate knowledge of the river, wildlife and local politics make him a wealth of entertaining knowledge while he expertly rows the river. His fishing skills give his customers an edge to catch the targeted species, BIG fish.
Pat likes to pull plugs because he says they catch the biggest fish. Before launching down river, he tied on pink colored plugs, put them in the river and made sure they wiggled just so. While stroking with the oars he regaled us with stories of local wildlife, personal reflections and inside stories of his friend, Mick Dodge.
The first few hours resulted in just one hit and miss. Two thirds of the way down river my rod doubled over with a chrome bright 12 pound hen that we quickly released. An hour later, while trolling the same pink plug, a massive chrome bright hen hit the plug and launched itself clear out of the water. A quick measurement put the fish at 18 to 20 pounds, according to Neal. My previous best was a chromer from the Cowlitz. Upon close inspection of the images and video, I’d put this bright steelhead at 17 to 18 pounds, a trophy by any measure.
Anyone looking for trophy steelhead should plan a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in April. If you want the best edge at catching a trophy fish, give Pat Neal a call. With luck he will fit you into his busy guide schedule. For more information contact him via his website.