Saturday morning, it's chilly but comfortable and I arrive at the river a half hour before dawn. Just me and every other angler within a 400 mile radius. But I found a spot I liked in a catch and release, fly fishing only area. I should note that, although I am by no means an expert (this being my second salmon outing), this isn't the same as trout fishing. It would be nice to have the river all to myself of course, but this type of fishing is not really about relaxing in solitude. It is, to me, about heart pounding fun. It is to trout fishing what a roller coaster is to a drive in the country. And I picked the busiest weekend of the year to go on this ride.
It wasn't light for long before I hooked my first fish. Still a little dark out, I was unsure about chasing this fish through the water when she chose to head downstream. So I waited, hoped she would decide to come back and eventually I was rewarded. A female Coho Salmon. Small. In fact, it was the smallest salmon I saw all weekend. By a wide margin. But that's alright, the Cohos run smaller than the Kings and, after all, I had only been fishing for twenty minutes. There would be more, certainly. Right? In the half dark with cold hands, holding perhaps the smallest fish in a five mile radius, and tangled in my flyline as I always seem to be during the fish release process, I did not bother to take a photo.
The rest of the morning and the afternoon saw more fish hooked, but no more landed. The fights were a blast, though, and I definitely learn a little bit more with each battle. Plus, watching other anglers is a great way to see first hand what works and what doesn't work when it comes to landing Really Large Fish. And sometimes - often, in fact - a big fish heads downstream in big water, and you're simply not going to see him again, no matter who you are or what you do. It's a matter of physics.
So the first day is in the books. I didn't drown. I landed a fish and fought a half dozen more. The weather was beautiful, the beer was cold, my back ached. The lights go out but the river does not sleep. There be monsters in there, and I'll try again tomorrow.