View RSS Feed


January Eight 2011;

Rate this Entry
After a New Years warming trend that has left the lane that leads to our home a solid mass of ice the weather has once again turned cold. No appreciable snow fall since I last wrote just enough warm weather & rain to make things interesting.

The days are slowly lengthening and the climb from darkness will be a slow one until the middle of February. At this time the changes in sun up & sun down become pretty obvious and you begin to feel some energy seeping back into your mussels and the mind. There is only one real and constant thought to cradle when you close your eyes at night and invite sleep to come to your existence. The thought is of open waters free from the grip of winters ice and the first glimpse of a King Salmon whose flank you are sure you saw flash in the run above the favorite pool. Will they come in good numbers after a 4 year decline? If they do you know what that means, long days searching and casting, hoping for the inevitable burst of power that will follow the initial tightening of your line. Last year I only caught one. Had a couple quick on and off but only one who saw it through until we had a look at one another. The release was quick and without ceremony. The season had been closed due to low returns and I was fishing the head of the Sockeye run as they made their way in from the sea. The king was hanging out in a run that had filled with sockeye and I was swinging and steering a Skykomish Sunrise through the water late in the evening looking to fill a limit of reds. Reds and sockeye are the same fish, I don't know if they are called reds because of their bright red flesh or the bright red color they take on as they ripen for the spawning season. I am guessing the name is attributed to the spawning fish.

Back to that King; I knew he was there but with season closed and so many reds present hooking a king that could either take forever to land on 15 pound leader or who could quickly break my precious fly from the line was not my intention. Funny thing how the fish already in the river for a couple weeks get excited when more fish show up. The king was obviously very glad to see the sockeye showing up and he was racing up and down the area among them. I had two salmon dead and on the stringer tied to the stern cleat of the boat when what I didn't want to see happen happened! The line went tight and I raised the rod and squinted into the water looking for the fish. What happened next was not what I wanted, the big guy went streaking from the deep water first down stream and quickly turned and raced up. As line whined from my Cascapedia reel and sliced through the meniscus with a resounding zipping sound I did utter two words. "Oh no", this can't end well I thought. Especially if I swung that fly into him and he's hooked in the dorsal fin or worse yet in the body behind the dorsal. This happens a lot when you arc a salmon fly through a run filled with 30 or more large fish. You don't try to do it, it just happens and if you hook a big fish in the rear on 15 pound leader you will loose the fly and leader for sure.

Withing the first few seconds the fish came rocketing from the water and turned a cart wheel about 30 yards up stream of me. Here's something I have learned, a foul hooked fish usually does not jump much. I don't know why but they just stay deep and run. The two best ways to know what has happened when you suddenly have a salmon hooked are; if you feel and can see the rod tip 'thumping' you have the fish hooked in the rear of the body and are feeling the pulsing of the tail as it is swimming to escape. Secondly, if the fish immediately hits the surface or makes a wild leap and a run faster than you have ever seen a fish preform you have him either on the hook with a real take of the fly or right on the outside of the jaw. Stuff happens underwater and of course the very best show will follow after a salmon actually grabs the fly and realizes that it is in danger. This evening I was in for a show! I can not say how many times the fish came bolting out of the water to return with a shower of spray and a noise similar to someone tossing cinder blocks into the pool from a fair hight.

With no gage of time this went on until my entertainer had had enough and he hit the tail of the pool and entered the white water headed down the river. I don't like chasing fish but I thought I could get him into some slack water about a hundred yards or so down stream so as Jackie Gleason would say " And Awayyy We Go" It really didn't take long to swing him across the channel and into riffles that were shallow enough to darn near have him beached. I hustled to the fish and knelt. A quick glance up river reveled that I could no longer see the boat that I had left at the scene of the misunderstanding. The fish was tired but there it was! No, not the fish, my Skykomish Sunrise stuck in his lower jaw! Right again! I knew that there was no way this could have happened the way it had if I had hooked him by hitting him with the fly or line. He did it. I wasn't really responsible. As I fumbled for my forceps he went from looking tired and needing a hand with that hook to wildly flopping his body over a number of times giving me a thorough wetting down and viola' he was gone. There in the curls of my leader was my fly, a good thing. I stood and watched as her swam back into the deeper water and headed for safety and I felt both a pang of guilt and a surge of wonderment in one instant.

I caught a King in 2010, he was not bright like the bumper on a new ford truck but was about 1/3 ripe or what we call starting to blush on the flanks. I hadn't seen a show like that fish made for almost 20 years. It was a strong one and I can only guess that it would weigh between 29 and 35 pounds. I am reduced to using the memories of those fish that I have taken and actually weighed over the years in order to make an estimate. Not huge by Alaskan standard but what a show. As the season went on I started seeing quite a few kings as they ripened. When they turn to a deep burgundy red they stick out like flashing lights in the river. I skillfully avoided any further contact with them and finished the season good on Chum, Pink, Sockeye and Silver Salmon. Lots of fish that ran and jumped and many who were released but just one King....................

Updated 03-20-2011 at 12:10 PM by Ard



  1. Frank Whiton's Avatar
    Hi Ard,

    Very nice story. I remember a similar confrontation with a big King in the Anchor River. I was fishing a 6wt fiberglass rod and not set up for a monster King. I had caught forty pound Kings and this one was way bigger than anything I had previously caught. I fought it for thirty minutes or so and I told my wife to get the net. I had worked it up into the shallow water near shore. As I reached over to net the fish he just splashed and was gone taking my Thor with him. I didn't have much experience with Kings at this time. While I felt he was ready to net, I don't think he had even got started with his fight. I did learn that a 6wt fiberglass rod was not meant for Kings.

  2. Davo's Avatar

    Very nice story Ard. You'll do well with this blogging adventure!! I look forward to you future posts.

  3. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: That was a great story, made me feel like I was there along side you fighting that King!