Written by Bob Melrose.
There are not many situations that can quicken an anglers pulse more than being on one of our Northwestern rivers when the salmon are in. The sights of salmon rolling, yells of "Fish On", the expletive deleted of fish lost, and the excitement up and down the river is hard to beat. This weekend the waters of the Nass, Kitimat and Skeena drainage will host some of the biggest Spring/Chinook Salmon in the world and their hopeful anglers. Each angler feeling like they are in the final few of a lottery and their time has come.
The sights and sounds of salmon on the move keeps you enthused long past the usual energy limit. Rests are short, because each minute not casting is a lost opportunity, and the next cast may be your time. And when it comes to the last cast and time to go, I know for me and my buddies, that last cast may be the longest moment in sport. We just don't want to leave.
So whether you are pulling plugs, casting spoons, bouncing Spin-N-Glos, bar fishing or swinging a fly, this is your time. Kids are out of school and there are more visitors around but our rivers have lots of room. On some of our more popular rivers crowding can become an issue on the easily accessible holes but if anglers practice the "rotation ethic" everybody can get along.
On one trip with three other fly fishing buddies on a very busy area on the Kitimat, we saw an angler firmly planted right in the middle of our favoured run. During the 15 minute walk to the area he had not moved. What to do. Go to another area that likely would also have lots of anglers or convince him to use the "rotation method"?
As it turns out he was a visiting angler from Italy. An accomplished angler, he had fished New Zealand, Argentina and Alaska but no one had explained the "rotation" to him. He readily agreed and we spent the most enjoyable next seven hours fishing that riffle. The five of us swapped fishing tales, helped each other land and release many salmon, took pictures and shared some lunch. It was a great afternoon and the visiting angler said it was the most enjoyable day he had ever had, and thanked us profusely for including him in the group. The thanks was ours for letting us come into a crowded situation. It was the ultimate win-win scenario and a very memorable trip.
The Springs/Chinook are in the Nass system, the Kitimat is absolutely prime right now and the whole Skeena drainage now has salmon in the Copper(Zymoetz), Kispiox, Babine, Bulkley and Morice and all downstream tribs of the Skeena.
Proper tackle is a must. 8 1/2 foot to 12 foot rods rated 25-40 pound with 25-40 pound mono or 50-65 pound braid is necessary. Many anglers are using the new Line Counter Ambassadeur reels and really like them, especially when drifting, pulling plugs or trolling. A large net is recommended. Nothing worse than a monster in too small a net. Single barbless "sticky sharp" hooks are not only recommended but mandatory.
My last salmon trip was a memorable one. We were fly fishing one of our favourite riffles. There were many Springs in the river and the Chums were also showing up. I hooked a very hot fish who screamed out 75 yards of backing like there was no drag. I turned the rod to adjust the drag to a heavier setting but inadvertently pointed the rod at the fish. The rod was ripped from my hand. The panicked dive for the rod missed and I as I stood up dripping wet I thought "What a stupid mistake". There goes a perfectly good Sage rod and reel donated to the river. The group of anglers from Ireland that were below us offered their condolences through heaving shoulders. My buddy said "What are you going to do?" "I have another rod in the truck, I'll go get it".
Returning a half lour later to the river I was about 100 yards from my buddy when one of the downstream Irishmen said 'I've hooked an orange line". It was my backing line. My buddy moved down and here comes the fly rod. The Sage was miraculously unbroken. As he handed the rod to me he said "I think the fish is still there".
Sure enough that fish was still on a half hour after the initial hookupl. Thirty five minutes later I landed a 35 pound Spring Salmon. Unfortunately that salmon was foul hooked through the dorsal fin, which is why I couldn't control him on the initial hookup. Never have I wanted to take a salmon so bad as that salmon. The half hour walk, the expected non return of a perfectly good Sage rod and Sage reel and that "dummy" feeling wanted me to savour every bite of that fish, but, legally you must release every foul hooked fish. So I released it and thanked that salmon for returning my rod and reel and for the story. One other thing, I will never again doubt the "luck of the Irish".
There is not much that can match the feeling on a salmon river when the run is prime. The feeling of expectation, the screaming of the eagles, the occasional bear, that unexpected seal head popping up in front of you, the wild yells as someone first hooks up.
Wherever you fish this holiday weekend, Enjoy yourself.! Be Safe and may the "Luck of the Irish" be with you.