Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Salmon River Day Two: The Kings

When the Lake Ontario salmon come up through the Salmon River, the first couple miles are through the Douglaston Salmon Run, a privately-owned, fee-fishing area. I decided to try this on Saturday morning, maybe get lucky with a fresh run of salmon. Fewer people spread out over a greater distance than the previous day, so I was able to find a place by myself. If you've never stood in a swift, black river on a crisp, autumn morning waiting for the sun to come up, I recommend it.

I hooked a very strong fish on about my third cast but lost him quickly. A half dozen more passed me, heading upstream in short bursts of wild energy, throwing themselves up and forward towards one of two final destinations: a spawning bed or a smoke house. But by the time it was fully light out the fishing was slow and stayed that way so I headed back to the previous day's spot, where I finally hooked and landed a decent King Salmon. That's me, for some reason, seemingly playing air guitar with my catch. It's hard to land these fish when you're by yourself, I got this one sort of beached in a shallow area and a nearby angler helped me out and then snapped the picture for me.

It was rewarding, after spending ten minutes or so fighting a fish, to get to hold it. And finally getting a photo of a fish was a relief, so I broke for lunch.

Going in to the afternoon I was relaxed. If I didn't catch another fish I had already enjoyed myself thoroughly, fought several fish, landed two and photographed one. Anything more would be icing on the cake. Well the icing came fast and furious, as I found a great spot and started hooking big salmon left and right. And people around me were hooking up too, huge fish jumping and splashing everywhere, the sound like kids cannonballing into a pool one after the other. One fish I hooked not more than ten feet from where I was standing, he bolted across the river and took 90 feet of flyline and half my backing with him. Then he charged straight back to me. The immediate and unexpected slack in the line, coupled with my furious reeling to regain it, resulted in the backing getting tangled around the tip of my rod. This would instantly result in a shattered rod once the fish took up the slack, and that event was going to happen very quickly. So I put the reel-end of the rod down in the water behind me and quickly tried to free the rod tip before my hand became part of the equation and really ruined the rest of the weekend. Success! I got control of my equipment and the fish, and landed him in a nearby shallow cove with the help of a kid who had been watching the whole fiasco with interest and/or amusement.

My arms still burning from that one I flipped my fly into the water to rearrange some equipment and gather myself, and hooked up again. This one headed upstream and I waded upstream after it, chatting some nice guys along the way. Then the fish turns around and as I pass the same guys again it really dawns on me: these fish just have a plan, and I'm not part of it. That afternoon marked the first time my arms ever got really, really tired from fishing. My best half day of salmon fishing yet, could it get any better?

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