I knew I'd made the right decision at my first glimpse of the river. The muddy torrent from three days earlier had temporarily subsided and had hopefully infused the river with some new life. So it was a bit of a surprise that the river wasn't awash with fish. In fact...it took half an hour before the first salmon showed itself in the pool just below the rock wall I'd scoped out on the weekend.
This was all I needed to complete my commitment to making this work today. I stashed my bike in a grove of willow saplings along the river bank, assembled my rod, wiggled into my new waders, and went to work on the pool.
You should know that the majority of my salmon fishing is all about sight casting. These large fish are only able to hide in the deepest, darkest pools and generally I've had little success fishing these areas. Last year on the Humber River I'd found a 5 foot deep run, 100 feet long and 8 feet wide that held hundreds of large fish. The fish were hyper-aware of their surroundings and regardless of how I approached the run, my line would spook the school, splitting it like Moses doing his thing at the Red Sea.
Anyways... the lone fish in the pool was eventually spooked after repeated casts and turned tail downstream. I decided to follow. Around one bend, another set of rapids, around another bend, pool, riffle,pool ,bend... and still no fish sighted! I waded nearly a mile downstream without seeing another salmon. One more bend in the river and then I was going to call it quits for the day...and then paydirt!
OK...not what you were expecting
It was getting late in the morning and I decided to pack it in for the day. As I returned to my wheels it occurred to me that I didn't check out the short section of the river upstream to the bridge. Around a sharp, deep bend and there in the tail out of a long run sat a large solitary fish! I thought I blew it on my first cast, lining the fish out of pure nervousness, but as the fly drifted closer, the fish drifted a foot to the left and sucked in my poorly presented offering.
In less than 10 seconds I was into my backing! Tightening down the drag, I waded upstream gaining line on the fish and just when I thought I'd gotten things under control, it turned downstream dragging me along for the ride to the deep pool at the bend. Here the fish decided to take to the air in a series of tail walks and end over end jumps followed by some deep "bulldogging". Using the current to it's advantage, it hugged the bottom so tenaciously I thought for a minute I'd gotten hung up on some wood, but after applying some alternating side pressure the fish finally relented and came to hand.
My prize for the day...a beautiful chinook hen in the high teens. A few quick picks and back into the river to spawn. This is the main reason I got an 8wt rod. Getting the fish to bite isn't much of a problem...landing them is never a certainty. Such explosive power, unmatched by any other other freshwater fish. The short window of opportunity keeps it fresh, exciting, and highly anticipated 11 months out of the year!