This column is all thumbs, as in rule of thumb.
A rule of thumb, for the uninformed, is loosely defined as an estimation or prediction based on previous experience and unhinged from such things as proven facts or reliable measurements.
An example would be that the rule of thumb for calculating the weight of a fish is about 2 pounds more than a certified scale actually would read.
One variable involves who’s telling the fish story. The guesstimate also is attenuated by the number of witnesses to the catch.
The predictive part of this rule of thumb is that you return to the same spot on the same day the following year regardless of water levels or flows and other factors such as tides and water temperatures.
Because if you were truly rational, would you also be an angler?
Fishing rules of thumb often are tied to holidays or events, as in the cryptic question, would you like a little herring to go with that chardonnay?
This is a rule of thumb that posits that herring fishing on Yaquina Bay picks up around the time of the annual Newport Wine and Seafood Festival.
It’s Feb. 22-25 in 2018, by the way.
Hey, catching herring in late February worked for two years running back in the early '90s, so it has been a rule of thumb ever since, despite repeated (mostly) lack of evidence for the successful application.
Herring, apparently, are not significantly enticed to engage in romantic liaisons by fermented grape juice.
You can fairly reliably count on Detroit Lake filling for Memorial Day weekend, unless there is a drought, and conversely depend on the water level dropping after Labor Day weekend. The timing of both being keyed to the recreation season rather than any meteorological phenomenon.
Another angling rule of thumb is that winter-run steelhead fishing on the Oregon Coast begins “around” Thanksgiving.
"Around" in this case is not a weasel word, given the volatility of the weather and resulting volume, temperature and clarity of river flows.
Not to mention the sluggish nature of the potential fishing participants who are in various stages of torpor from massive food and gravy overdoses during the extended holiday weekend.
One rule of thumb that has been fairly reliable, and which has been mentioned in a previous column, is both arboreal and piscatorial. That is to say relating to trees and fish.
It is a fairly reliable rule of thumb that when consistent warm weather — generally around mid-May (and there’s that not-a-weasel “a” word again) — gets the cottonwoods blooming, it’s time to start checking the shad counts at the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
I’d like to take the credit for this rule-of-thumb tip, but I actually learned it from John, a dedicated shad angler in Redding, California, who called me on a sultry early summer afternoon to entice me to go with him on a pre-dusk shad outing on the Sacramento River near Red Bluff.
The air was hot and heavy, and laden with little puffs of white drifting from the cottonwood trees. The Sacramento was equally loaded with fish.
As were the riverside bushes … with mosquitoes.
There is one rule of thumb about fishing that you can pretty well bank on, though.
Don’t ever thumb your nose about making a call or two, and checking the weather and river-level web sites, before you head out.
Henry Miller is a retired Statesman Journal columnist and outdoor writer. He can be reached via email at HenryMillerSJ@gmail.com