Sunday, September 23, 2007
Pitchin’ Spinners For River Kings
The hole wasn’t exactly alive with fish but there were a half-dozen Chinook salmon present, and we were pitching some of Honor guide Mark Rinckey’s home-made spinners into the six-foot deep hole. We’d cast across stream take up slack line and retrieve just fast enough to make the spinner turn over. Time after time we cast to the rolling fish.
Suddenly, my rod tip shot down from the force of the strike and the medium-heavy action 9-foot rod was slammed back to set the hook. This wasn’t a gentle salute with the rod tip; the reel was stocked with 12-pound line, and I gave the strike everything I had.
The big king rolled ponderously to the surface, lathered it to foam, and shot off on a downstream run. I was hot after it, and then Rinckey hooked a fish. Together, we silently battled our fish. His preferred to stay in the hole where it was hooked while my preferred to party in the next hole downstream. Of the two I would have liked mine to stay upstream where he’d been hooked because the spot where he was presently digging for bottom under a log jam was filled with snags.
He finally shot back upstream for 20 yards, and now I had the fish where I wanted him. He was battling the current and the relentless rod pressure. I put the pressure to him, pulled right when he wanted to go left, and pulled left when he tried to head to the right. This method of fighting big salmon works but it’s necessary to carry the fight to the fish and upset their balance. Do that, and the fish can be landed in half the time and they aren’t so thoroughly tired out that they can’t spawn
My fish fought on for another five minutes before he turned on his side. I increased the pressure and skidded him up into shallow water. The spinner was stuck in the corner of his jaw, and one twist with long-nose pliers gave him his freedom. He lazily swam back out into the current and headed back upstream.
Spinners and Chinook salmon go together like root beer and ice cream. The trick is to keep the spinner turning over as the lure moves downstream on a tight line. Don’t worry about whether you’ve had a strike.
A big king salmon will smash the spinner hard, and a few such strikes have made my wrist sore. Then the pressure of fighting a big fish in current can be a bit of strenuous exercise. Some of these big fish are fully capable of taking an angler a quarter-mile downstream before they can be landed.
Kings are rough and tumble fighters, and they fight until the last ounce of strength is gone. Most of the kings this season are running from 10 to 15 pounds, but an occasional 20-pounder is being caught.
If it’s hard-fighting action you want, try tangling with river kings. They turn dark after a few days in the river, but some of the females are bright silver. Those fish fight the hardest, and leave you at the end of a fishing day with a sore wrist and an appetite for more action.