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A month with the salmon

October 1, 2015

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Salmon fever was my affliction this year. While losing myself in a month-long frenzy of working, fishing, and sleeping, I rediscovered the charm of solitude. Amidst the sleepless nights, the jarring bites and crazy fights there was nothing as great as the charm of a quiet night, lonely and surrounded by endeavoring salmon.

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In contrast to last year, water temperatures this year remained high throughout the season, occasionally flirting with the 70s even in the middle of September. Muddy water occurring near the end of August allowed some fish to push up close to shore and it was here, in the mud, that the action began. The culmination of which was a salmon that decided the best way of dealing with being hooked was to b-line it to my kayak and jump in with me.

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I won’t soon forget what twenty pounds of fish-power connected to a treble hook feels like when it’s smashing around my legs.

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Aside from the kayak, I’d spent some time on solid ground fishing from the pier. The best of this action was almost always on days with muddy, opaque water. Just because the water was muddy didn’t mean it would be good, but muddy water seemed to at least be a prerequisite for hitting fish.

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Changing lures to new things the fish hadn’t seen before seemed to be the ticket to a hit or two before they’d get bored and yet a different lure would be required. It seemed that almost anything could work as long as the fish hadn’t seen it that morning.

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Some highlights from the pier this year were snagging lampreys off the sides of fish, a double header that turned into a quadruple header, and burning lures at top speed to clear the way for boats only to receive a fish on in return.

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And of course, there was tackle carnage that lost us some fish. Opened split rings lost me two fish this season whereas I’ve never before experienced an issue with split rings. Oh, and crankbaits also broke in half.

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Soon after the mud cleared, a stiff north wind turned over nearshore water dropping temperatures to the mid-50s, the coldest they’d be all season. It was then, at the very end of August, that I experienced the rare, electrifying action of non-stop chinook salmon.

I’ll never forget paddling up to a group of fish that was jumping so actively it sounded like rain. As my friend put it, you could smell the slime in the air. It was that night that I beat my previous personal best chain of fish with seven fish in seven casts and two fish on in one cast. Double digit numbers of fish in the kayak lead to inexplicable giddiness.

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After three nights of salmonid insanity, water temperatures began to climb. The fish, while still actively surfacing, became more and more reluctant to bite. This didn’t make the fishing any less memorable, as one evening in early September, casting to negative fish, I dozed off mid-retrieve only to be awoken by salmon that decided to wait until my spoon was fluttering down to bite.

While water temperatures never fell back to the cool mid-50s, there was still fun to be had. This season, quite a few boatside bumps from fish resulted in a bite after dropping the spoon back at them. There’s not much else like being hit at your feet by a salmon. Even in the warm water, the fish would sometimes turn on sporadically and provide nonstop action for a bit before they shut off again. Amidst the mix of high teen to mid twenty pound fish, a few remarkable monsters made it into the kayak as well.

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With the water mostly clear in the middle of September, the pier fishing scene was largely hit and miss. Slower action than normal was reported, but amidst the lackluster days, my friends and I managed two days of being at the right place at the right time. Rainfall had muddied the water in the main river channel, and after a largely unproductive morning at the pier we managed to cast into yet another day of nonstop action. The key was smaller lures than we would normally use, which were perfectly fine to throw in the narrow channel where distance casts weren’t a priority.

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The next morning, as the mud settled at the pier, a friend and I found ourselves in the middle of a completely wide open salmon bite. We were hitting fish every cast and ended the morning with over thirty fish between the two of us. It literally could not get any better than this.

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Returning the next day the bite was once again off. Strangely, I found out that the bite in the river channel had been off that morning as well.

As more and more fish left the river mouth for upstream areas, the action tapered off just as it always does.  While spending a month losing myself amidst these beautiful fish, I surely found a memory or two to last a lifetime.  To me, that is time well spent.

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