Hooked and Snagged
This day dawned clear and bright, but the cold of last evening was not gone, and even the sun, pouring through the nearly barren branches of streamside trees could not persuade the temperature to get much above the mid 40s F. It was a different day for the kings, too. Like all fish, they get a mite touchy under such brilliant skies. The casts were necessarily longer, the drifts more difficult, and the fish a whole lot more picky. Still, I found a few that remembered the last evening and took the fly, maybe not with zeal, but certainly decisively.
A car on the dirt road opposite my fishing position stopped, and my good friend, Lou Jirikowic, stepped out and called to me. We had agreed to meet sometime, somewhere on the stream, and now we would fish together for the day.
Hiking over the hill to a back-country stretch of the stream brought us to a lovely section of water alive with kings. Some were aged already, their white tails showing the wear and tear of redd building. Others were fresh and brash, plowing up the riffles with the determined ease of a sumo wrestler. And they took the fly. We found them, perhaps not as willing as the night before, but still pleasantly interested in the flies we were fishing, especially the egg patterns.
I found a pod of three big fish, a female and two contesting suitors. It was certainly a potential setup. On the first cast, the two big males spun as if to dash away, but then one turned and grabbed the egg fly as if it had been an unwanted invader. The hook went in, and the battle was on. A king in the 20-pound class is a whole different creature. Not only does it have the weight, but its spade sized tail pushes water with enormous force. It spun and jerked line off the reel with deliberate ease. I could feel the powerful head shakes. and sense the immense strength of the fish as it sped unimpeded fist this way and then that.
Suddenly, the fish felt enormously heavy, as if it had somehow managed to double its weight. Pulling as hard as I dared against the 10 pound Maxima Chameleon tippet, I saw the big king roll on its side, a fly hooked securely in its dorsal. I couldn’t believe it. The fish had taken the egg, and in its twisting, wallowing fight, had managed to snag itself on the top fly—a big sculpin design. Trying to land a fish this size by towing it in dorsal fin first is a bit like dragging a bus off the freeway sideways. Not to be done. I could only hold on and wait for the fish to run out of gas, and that promised to be hundreds of miles down the road.
Suddenly I felt the head shakes again, as the fish surged down the pool. The snagged fly had come loose and I was back in touch with the front end of the beast once again. Now able to steer its head and force it to fight on my terms, I eventually got the fish to the net, the egg fly still secure in its jaw.
The day ended without any other strange incidents, and my final count was 7 kings, five on the egg, and two on the sculpin.