Wednesday 5th November, 2008
I'm not sure exactly when I did it, but quite a few years ago I decided to make myself a goal to catch at least 100 species of fish on flies before I hang up my waders for good. Now, I realize that's not quite as ambitious as Paul's plan to catch EVERY fish of every species (or if not all of them, then most of the big ones), but it's been really fun traveling around and trying new fisheries and techniques.
This past weekend found me in Seattle for Halloween, and my friend Eric (not that Eric) offered to show me some water where I might have a chance at a new species - the chum salmon.
I'm far from an expert at catching salmon on flies, so I'm not going to talk technique, but the healthy runs of wild chums offered us enough chances at fish that even I managed to hook up and land a couple of fish. By my count, I was hooking at least one out of every 1000 fish that we saw. But one chum was all I needed to count it as my 55th species or subspecies of fish landed on fly.
These chums might not be great biters all the time, or good to eat compared to the other salmon species, but based on the two fish that I fought this weekend and the others that I saw, I can tell you that these fish are absolutely bad-ass. They are big, and MEAN. They carry themselves with what I can only describe as an angry demeanor. They even look mean - especially the males with their blotchy red and black barring, big shoulders, and huge vampire-esque teeth. Perfect quarry on this Halloween weekend. In one area where fish were spawning, I watched one big male bite another, latching on to its back side for about five seconds as the fish on the wrong end of the deal took off and dragged the biter across a shallow gravel riffle leaving both fish nearly out of water.
And these fish not only look mean, they fight mean. Backing shots, relentless head shakes, raw power and brute force. These guys fight like a big bull trout with roid rage! They absolutely NEVER give up. They do not tire out. You have to physically beat them. With a big steelhead, if you lead them into water that is about 3/4 as deep as the fish is tall they generally just tip over and give up. These chums have an incredible ability to stay upright and swim at full speed in about two inches of water, throwing water and mud in your face as they blast back out into the run, taking your line with them. When you finally tip one over and decide you want a photo you had better prepare for a wrestling match. I swear they look at you in the eye and dare you to put a hand near that fang filled mouth.
What else can I say? They might be mean and ugly, try to bite me, and throw mud in my face, but I think I'm in love.
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