There are very few things in life that compare to hooking a large Chinook Salmon. Maybe the first time you stomped on the throttle of that big block muscle car and were simultaneously jammed into your seat, feeling completely out of control as it fishtailed out off the starting line. Maybe it was that first time you skied down a Black Diamond run and felt right on the edge of losing it. One little mistake and it’s over.
I had a long time friend come out for a day of fun fly fishing here on the Olympic Peninsula during the fall a couple of years ago and hooked one of those Kings that leaves you shaking in the aftermath of an adrenaline overload. After my buddy had hooked and landed several fish, I stepped in below him and started to swing a Senyo Egg Raider and was quickly jolted out of my meditative state by a crushing strike as the fish jumped 3 times and left the pool in one long scorching run. With me in hot pursuit, which means a fast walk/ slow jog at this point in my life, I watched the backing disappear from my reel. Grateful that I had loaded it with Gel Spun backing as I would otherwise already have been spooled. I yelled for my partner to bring the boat and he arrived just in time as I was nearly out of line, breath and already halfway down the next flat after a long chase. I climbed into the boat and we followed the fish through a Class 2 rapid and were able to bring her to the net a half a mile bellow where I originally hooked her. She was chrome bright and so tired that I just held her in the water along side the boat until she was ready and released her to swim away without a photo.
Fish like that one always stick with you. Those stories usually end with tales of the one that got away but with good equipment, luck and teamwork we were fortunate enough to land that stunning fish. The equipment started with a Sage 8136 Igniter Spey rod coupled with a Bogdan #1 Salmon reel loaded with 30 pound Gel Spun backing which gave me the extra 100 yards of backing capacity needed to stay with the fish long enough for the boat to arrive. The fly line was a 600 grain intermediate Skagit head with 10 feet of T-11. The 4 feet of 20 pound test fluorocarbon tippet at the end of my sink tip held up to that blistering run through a boulder strewn flat. That was the first fish I had hooked after purchasing the 50 year old reel and it performed like a champ and continues to do so to this day. All in all, it ended up being a great day as the weather was perfect, the company was even better and bright Coho were biting in addition to the Kings.
The moral of this story is to come prepared, fish hard and it might just result in a memory that lasts for a lifetime. It might even be a good idea to do a little stretching before you step into the water because you just never know what might happen!