Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dropping like flies

Just a couple weeks back I was talking with a friend and follower of this blog and we were joking about what a great job I was doing of reaching my goals for the year.  At that point with 8 out of 10 months gone I had crossed off a grand total of one out of ten.  It wasn't looking good.

Last week I headed out to find some sea-run cutts so I could at least cross one more goal off before the year came to a close on me.  I did succeed, although I didn't tell you all.  The pics I took either turned out way too dark or way over-saturated.  Such is the life of a poor photographer.  But at least that makes it 2 of 10.

Since I was on a roll I figured it would be a good idea to go try for some salmon on Saturday.  The entire Portland fishing area is new to me, so I stayed with one of the few rivers I have been to:  the Wilson.  It was a little more popular than last time I went out, which isn't surprising since then it was very rainy and this time it was nice a sunny.  But eventually I found a spot to park and fish.

The first thing I saw when I got down to the water was a nice big fish 20 feet out from the bank.  I couldn't tell if it was a small salmon, a huge sea-run cutt, or a stealhead but who really cares.  It was a big fish.  The section of river was moving very slowly and the surface was glassy....not the best condition to make a stealthy cast.  I gave it a go anyway and managed a number of casts near the fish before he took off.  No luck yet.

For the rest of the afternoon I worked my way downstream hole after hole with no luck besides a bunch of little fish chasing my streamer around and nibbling at it.  When the sun began heading down the canyon walls I decided to move upstream and work the water above where I had started the day before calling it quits.

Finally I struck gold fishing a fast moving riffle.  There was a strong take and not long thereafter I got a glimpse of what I was in for.  Light glimmered off a huge silver side in the seam of the riffle, and I couldn't help but say "holy $#!T!"  It was on!

Right away the fish turned in the current and headed downstream.  Line spun off my reel and I tried to move down quickly with him.  Luckily for me the fast current was short and he dropped into the big pool just 25 feet downstream.  From there he was easier to control, but I was still somewhat regretting adding some 5X to my 4X leader.  Reliable knots sometimes elude me.  When I had tied this one I wasn't all that happy but I tested it and was too lazy to redo it.

That knot was all I could think about as the fish came up to me then turned and swam back down into the deep pool.  Over and over again.  Each time the fish came up near me and I tried to get down to him he ran.  A number of times his turn involved me getting a splash of water in the face.  I pulled my net out of my vest and got that close to him once too before realizing it would be of no help.

I've seen it done in the movies and apparently you can just grab big fish by the tail.  I have also always thought it was made to look way easier than it was.  But that was my only choice, so I kept fighting the fish to tire him out.

Finally after an hour in fish-fighting time, or 15 minutes in real time, he came in close enough for me to attempt the tail grab.  I grabbed his tail, put my rod down and picked him up.  As easy as that!  If someone had been watching they would have been fooled into thinking I had done this before.  With a better look at him I became a little confused.

I had assumed I was catching a nice Chinook or Coho, but it looked more like a steelhead to me.  The only information I had to distinguish were the few things I read in the past week or two.  What I remembered was something about spots on the tail and that Chinook have black gums, Coho have white gums with a black outline and steelhead gums are all white.  This guy's gums were solid white so I am left assuming he was a massive steelhead.

I set the camera up for a quick self portrait and took a couple pics to make sure I got a decent one, then got him back in the water.

My best guess is he was somewhere north of 30" in length and weighed however much a fish that big weighs.

Also notice the adipose fin still in tact, which means he's not from a hatchery.

And that crosses two more goals off my list.  One for catching a steelhead not on accident, and another for making a new notch on my belt for my new largest fish.  Congratulations to me!

Now I just need to bag a Salmon...


  1. Okay. You caught THAT tank....AND got a self portrait. Holy cow! Congratulations on it all! (And I am seriously impressed. I can barely manage a "self portrait" of a 7 inch brown in my hand. ;) )

  2. emb: don't worry, I have plenty of pictures of an empty hand and the tail of a fish vanishing off the bottom of the pic too.