Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Into the Realm of Possibility
I heard it so many times before. Whenever I mentioned heading north to catch king salmon on the fly, friends, family, and strangers all had similar stories of fishing for them. They said, "all you have to do, is get it close to their face and set the hook". I usually smiled and nodded my head in agreement, but deep down inside, my stomach was tied in a knot. That isn't fishing, and never will be.
I knew that Kings can be caught on fly, legally, and thus it became a goal of sorts to accomplish that feat. I wasn't interested in catching spawning salmon that are snapping at flies hanging in front of their face out of pure anger. I wanted to catch one on the swing using spey/skagit gear. On our third year of heading north (once or twice a year) we finally had some luck. We swallowed our pride and bought tickets for the DSR. Forty five dollars to fish the first two river miles of the Salmon River and have a chance at fresh fish. Fish that haven't gone through a gauntlet of tarpon hooks, sinkers, and heavy monofilament. With that goal in mind, we were still wary of our past attempts and failures. Would a Great Lakes king truly go out of its way to slam a large streamer on the swing? Could it be done?
Our first time at the DSR, we admittedly had no idea where to go to swing flies. It is a lot of water to cover so we decided to fish upstream and work our way down. Big mistake. We also thought it would be a utopia of sorts full of "sportsmen" all legally catching salmon. We were wrong. However, the morning started off well. On my second swing, an unseen force crushed a black intruder that instantaneously broke off on my hook set. I didn't think that could happen. Upstream in a super fast section of water, I hooked up again. The large head of a male came to the surface and thrashed violently back and forth before breaking me off on some structure a backing run downstream. What the hell was going on? We wondered out loud if it was truly happening.
It wasn't until later that we witnessed the event first hand. Adam was probing a section of whitewater, swinging a pink and orange Senyo's tube sculpin through various pockets, when a fresh king shattered three years of questioning and doubt. Moving several feet, the fish inhaled the offering and began a blitz downstream, it's back protruding from the water column revealing an adipose the size of my palm. Adam worked it into an eddy and there it was, at our feet. Fresh. Pure. Untouched. No sign of the fly, it was engulfed. As if realizing our admiration, the fish made one last run, opening its cavernous mouth, and shook free of the hook.
In that moment, our confidence sky rocketed and we entered a new realm of possibility.