We all had great times fishing the Salmon River October 2009-2011, and me, my son Matt, brother Rick, and nephew Kyle enjoyed this most crowded Columbus Day weekend too, but the results aren't happy this time. All of us got skunked.
Fishing is, in an important aspect, a primordial venture of going out and returning, if not with actual fish or meat from them, at least abstracts in the forms of numbers and memories. Those memories serve a lot better than fodder for fantasy confined only to the head, as well. As anglers we all know it's not just about being outside, but satisfying something deep in ourselves that goes back in the history of mankind long before civilization. Making a catch fulfills that.
We all had fish on, so at least we tangled with salmon, and quite a few. I got to play out half a dozen inadvertently foul hooked kings at length, feel their power and turns, and practice at playing these fish in order to be better prepared for the much less frequent mouth-hooked salmon. None of these fish were foul hooked from "lifting" the split shot weighted hook and bead off bottom. (Anyone who tries to snag salmon is breaking the law.) They pretty much hooked themselves. Suddenly a great fish ran fast before I even had time to set the hook. I lost only two of these to jumps, which is the typical way they come off.
Salmon leap as high as six feet, often otherwise lost by turning downstream and gaining through rapids below a pool. Only mouth-hooked salmon may be kept by law, and of course to hook a salmon in the mouth probably means a better chance at landing the fish, since a hook snagged in softer flesh on the belly, back, tail end, etc., is more likely to pull free.
The debate on the river about whether salmon strike beads, flies, egg sacs would be eternal. Many people say it's just the luck of the bead drifting into a salmon's mouth, or even of the line entering the mouth crosswise and the hook being pulled inside. But something provokes a salmon on occasion to take an egg into its mouth. Since they're running to spawn and their biology shuts off the urge to feed, the intent is not to eat the presentation, but something else no one seems to understand. Rick fished the Douglaston Salmon Run Saturday morning and found a pocket where five kings staged before they would move upstream. One of them turned on the bead and took it.
The highlight of the weekend for me was hooking an enormous brown trout at least 12 pounds in the corner of the mouth, fighting the fish long, but losing it when the 12-pound fluorocarbon leader frayed on the rocks it ran against near the bank. It was an outrageously fortunate moment to have hooked it on a red 10mm bead. This happened during the first hour of fishing Saturday at Ellis Cove, so it seemed then as if the weekend was well in our favor, and the rush of excitement mixed with regret for the loss felt intense. We were there for salmon--although Rick prefers steelhead and I certainly do in November--but hooking a brown trout and especially one of enormous size came as a big surprise. Relatively few brown trout run the river compared to king salmon, Coho salmon, and steelhead in that order. During summer, an even lesser number of Atlantic salmon run, and whether or not the abundant smallmouth bass are resident or come up the river from Lake Ontario in June after spawning, I don't really know.