In Central Oregon, cure the blues with fishing

Angling has been good in area reservoirs

Gary Lewis /

In 1984, the year of the rat, according to the Chinese Zodiac, a Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health formally described and named a serious mood change.

They called their discovery Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), previously known as cabin fever, seasonal depression or the blues.

At first the experts were skeptical, but then they recognized it for what it was, a boon to the economy.

Tanning studios opened and pale Nordic types began to strut the bronzed look year-round. Students at liberal arts colleges immediately enrolled in pharmacy programs and took out huge student loans. Premed students made down payments on Mercedes and BMWs.

Today, thanks to the farseeing folks at the institute, SAD is recognized as a common disorder that affects people who have normal mental health but experience depressive symptoms in the winter.

Prevalence of SAD ranges from 1.4 percent in Florida to 9.7 percent in New Hampshire. In Alaska, in the dark days of winter, SAD rates run between 8.9 percent and 24.9 percent for subsyndromal SAD. Among the Irish, 20 percent of the population is affected by SAD, and the survey shows women are more likely to be affected. My father-in-law would nod vigorously.

Treatment ranges from light therapy, to ionized air, to hormone supplementation, to cognitive-behavioral therapy, to anti-depressants. Read that “expensive.”

In the epidemiology, the sixth-century Goth Jordanes is said to be the first to describe the seasonal depression in Scandza (Scandinavia). Iceland appears to be an exception, and there is speculation that higher annual fish consumption might be the reason for the sunny disposition of Icelanders.

In Reykjavik and Kopavogur and Hafnarfjorour, they consume about 200 pounds of fish per person per year. A similar anomaly is found in Japan, where fish consumption runs about 132 pounds of fish per year. A recent study showed the average consumer in the U.S. eats 15.8 pounds of fish per year. See the problem here?

Perhaps you have noticed the days are getting longer and there are buds in the trees again. That means the official opening of trout season is nearly upon us, and the fish are already biting in some of our lakes and reservoirs that are open year-round.

Our snowpack is not what it should be this year, but that means a lot of the high lakes are going to be accessible.

Already, the fishing has been good at places like Lake Simtustus, Pine Hollow Reservoir and Haystack Reservoir. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has stocking scheduled for mid-April on Krumbo Reservoir and Burns Pond in Eastern Oregon.

In the Willamette watershed, several reaches of the McKenzie River are slated for stocking in April, as well as Leaburg Lake and other impoundments. Detroit Reservoir, in the Cascades, will be planted with 30,000 fish before opening day, April 26.

For those new to the game, a 6- to 7-foot spinning rod is ideal, rated for 4- to 8-pound test line. Fill the reel with 6-pound monofilament and slide a clear plastic casting bubble on the main line. Knot the main line (Google “improved clinch knot”) to a barrel swivel, then tie on 30 inches of line to the other end of the swivel. Now tie on a red-tag Woolly Worm or a Woolly Bugger or a beadhead Prince Nymph to the terminal end.

The plastic bubble can be moved up and down the main line and held in place with a matchstick to allow the fly to sink deeper in the water column. Add water to the casting bubble for greater casting distance. Walk down to the lake and bomb it out there.

If someone in a white lab coat tells you about light therapy or the latest ionized-air treatment, tell him to make his own Mercedes payment. You’ve got a big windshield on the front of your car and the sunlight is going to do you a lot of good streaming through. Ionized air? Just crack the window and put your hand out.

According to my research, the generic for Prozac costs $44 for 60 tablets, while therapy runs 16 to 32 sessions, costing as much as $150 per visit. An Oregon fishing license, on the other hand, costs $33, while the youth license is $9, and kids under 14 don’t need a license.

That first fish might seem expensive, but they get a lot cheaper after that.

— Gary Lewis is the host of “Frontier Unlimited” and author of “John Nosler — Going Ballistic,” “A Bear Hunter’s Guide to the Universe,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Lewis at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.