Every once in awhile as an angler, you need to “throw caution to the wind” and simply get out fishing no matter the conditions, and sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Well, in my case, yesterday happened to be one of those days. Last week had previously been a tough one for clients on our rivers, owing to low, clean conditions on the Kitimat and high water on the main channel Skeena. Not much had really changed yesterday, and in days before, as we hadn’t received any appreciable amount of rain. Still, I had made plans to fish with Sky Richard and wanted to stick with them, even just to get out for a pleasant day of fishing. Early in the day (as in 4 am early!), Sky and I spoke about the conditions we were likely to be facing, and he suggested if we hooked any fish at all, he would be surprised. Not to be discouraged, we launched our drift boat and set off towards the first pool, likely before others had even entertained the idea of getting up for work. Whether this was an omen of what was to come, we couldn’t be sure, but as we stepped out of the boat and rigged our spoons, we saw a Chinook roll in a smooth seam on the far bank. We began working our spoons through this seam, and through other likely areas, and after about 10 minutes of fishing, I felt my spoon stop half way through its drift. Setting hard on the hook, the Chinook began a strong, dogged fight with several short runs through the pool, but with one last headshake, the fish spit the hook. This was definitely not the outcome I was hoping for, but was a good start to the day. Since we knew that fish were in this pool, Sky changed tactics and began bottom bouncing through the deep trough at the head of the run, and was rewarded when a strong fish hit his hoochie. Unfortunately, his outcome was the same as mine – his line went slack and the fish was gone. Having worked through this run quite hard, we set out towards a few other pools, with a renewed sense of enthusiasm at the prospect of seeing more fresh fish.
Wanting to gain some experience on the oars, I had volunteered to row the Clackacraft, and it was a relaxing way to see the river as Sky fished through its many pockets. Coming around a sharp corner, we saw a run that looked picture perfect for holding Chinook: a long riffle dumped into its head, creating a deep slot near the top, followed by a smooth uniform flow through to the tailout. Perhaps more importantly, there was a particularly fast section of water below the run, and fish would have to rest after passing through it, giving us a good chance at connecting with any migrating Salmon. I had just released the anchor when we both saw it – a large fish roll on the surface half way down the pool. Hands shaking, I unhooked my spoon and Sky gave me the opportunity to fish through the run first. The cast and slight wobble of the retrieve was intoxicating, as at any time through the swing, a huge Chinook could be following or ready to pounce on the spoon. Before I’d had a chance to work through the whole stretch, I heard Sky holler “here’s one!” He had fished in behind me, again with a bottom bouncing rig, and this slower, more subtle presentation seemed to be key. But, just as the fight started quickly, it also ended quickly. It was shaping up to be a repeat of last year’s trip, where we hooked a number of fish but only landed a fraction of them.
I didn’t even get my spoon back in the water before Sky was already into another fish, and this time the hook held. After clambering back to the drift boat over several logs to retrieve my camera, I managed to snap a few photos of Sky fighting the fish. Being up on a high bank also allowed me to have a higher vantage point to see the fight play out, so when the fish rolled on its side and revealed its true extent, I got excited. It was easily a 40 lb fish, and Sky knew it as well. From this point on, it was tense, as we both wanted to land this fish badly. Unfortunately, in our haste to get to the river early, we had inadvertently forgotten to bring a landing net, so we had to improvise. There was a beach right below where I was standing and, given the nasty logjams below, seemed like the best place to land the fish. After several episodes of Sky bringing the fish in and it making a few last runs, I managed to tail the fish near the beach. Exhausted, but excited, Sky noticed the hook fall out right away and admired the fish for a few moments, as I furiously shot some photos. As we saw it swim away in the shallows, we both couldn’t help but be amazed at how thick the fish was across the back. It wasn’t until we started back at the top of the run, however, that we realized just how lucky we were in landing the fish. Sky checked his hook to make sure it was still sharp, only to find that the hook point and half the bend was broken off! Looking back, he figured that the first fish either broke the hook or came off because of the hook bend. So, the fact that he landed a 40 lb Chinook on half a hook, after an intense 15 minute battle is incredible and definitely unlikely! I’ll chalk that one up to the horseshoe that Sky seems to have surrounding him, and will add this to the growing number of interesting “Sky stories…”
If this wasn’t memorable enough, my day got even better after this. You see, I’ve been determined to at least hook a Chinook on a fly or Spey rod, and given that we’d seen two fish hooked and three others roll on the surface, figured that this would be as good a chance as any to target Chinook with a fly. Using a large fly known to a select few clients as the “Black Rainbow,” I worked through the top of the run, quartering my casts slightly upstream, and allowed my fly to swing through the deep pocket in front of me. As I worked downstream, I could feel my sink tip touch the bottom every once in awhile, so I knew that the fly was where it needed to be. With the smooth, more “fly-friendly” water in front of me, I swung my fly towards the shore closest to me, and just like the first fish I’d hooked on the spoon, my fly and line stopped dead in the water. Pinching the running line down on the cork, I anchored my line firmly and set the hook, fully expecting chaos afterwards. Just as I expected, this was the case. Somehow, my running line had found its way around the back of my head, and with a fresh Chinook in front of me, I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before the line tightened! Scrambling like a mad man, I knocked my hat in the water, fumbled with my jacket and fleece, and finally managed to free my line before the Chinook went on a 60 foot run. I was in my element, and Sky seemed to be just as excited as I was at seeing a Chinook on the fly. Without getting into too many details, the fish, like most Chinook, fought well and admirably so until Sky had it tailed on the beach. It wasn’t quite as big as Sky’s (which I was somewhat thankful for later on, as I didn’t want to lose my fly line!), but the 20 lb Chinook in front of me was chrome, fresh, and still bearing sea lice, and one of the nicest fish I’ve ever seen. You have to appreciate it when something like this comes together, and I realized just how lucky I was.
As if this weren’t enough, there was more to come. Sky landed another huge fish in the 40-42 lb range, which fought even harder than his first, and lost another that could have possibly been 50 lbs. I’ll save these stories for another time though…be sure to check out next week’s report!
All in all, it was a tough day to beat. We hooked into some absolutely gorgeous Chinook, the biggest I’ve seen yet, but we wouldn’t have done so unless we were attentive to the conditions, and able to adapt our fishing techniques to each pool. With the low, clear water, the Chinook weren’t willing to hit spoons in the “glory pool,” but readily attacked a hoochie bounced slowly off the bottom. This just goes to show that having a willingness to change your tactics if necessary is, in effect, the hallmark of a good fisherman. You learn something new every day on the water if you pay close enough attention, and when you fish with some of our great guides like Sky, the learning curve seems to be that much shorter…
Until next week, tight lines and screaming reels…
NICHOLAS DEAN LODGE PROMOTIONS
Chinook Salmon have long been called the “King” of Salmon, and for very good reason. These fish are the largest of the Pacific Salmonids, and can reach weights of 100 lbs or more. Science has shown that the largest of these species, for some unknown reason, spend an extra year in the Ocean, giving them more time to feed and grow. The Skeena River, in particular, is blessed with a robust run of these large multi year fish and, as a result, can provide some of the very best Chinook fishing in the world. And, because these massive fish are concentrated in the margins of the river, you have a better chance of hooking into a trophy here than anywhere else. So if you’ve ever considered going on a trip for large, tackle busting fish, and you have some holiday time booked off this year in June or July, this is your opportunity. We are now offering a 5% discount off the regular main lodge package rates for the following weeks:
~ June 29 to July 5, 2008
~ July 6 to 12, 2008
~ July 13 to 19, 2008
These dates are set in the middle of our prime time Chinook fishing season, and we expect that the remaining spaces will fill up quickly. Contact me at the lodge at (250) 635-5295 or email me at email@example.com to reserve your space today. Who knows, you could be the next angler in line to set one of the “Nicholas Dean Lodge 2008 Records,” or, better yet, a world record…
Nicholas Dean Lodge 2008 Season Records To Date:
Steelhead: 23 lbs, Caught by Martin Walker of San Francisco, California on a Skeena River Tributary
Chinook Salmon: 40 lbs, Caught by Bob Cusick of Edmonton, Alberta on a Skeena River Tributary