Chinook on the Fly

There’s a section of river about five minutes from my house which, although nice looking, isn’t usually worth fishing due to its location between dams. However, for a few weeks during spring and fall, this section of river comes alive with big migratory fish that gain access via a fish ladder on the dam several miles downstream.
Historically, I haven’t fished much for salmon or steelhead – I normally prefer resident trout waters, where the crowds are less and the fish are (in my opinion) prettier. Since this section of river is close to home though and one of the lesser fished stretches, I figured I’d give it a try for a couple hours before work.
The river seemed pretty empty when I arrived, but a walk downstream showed a much different picture: lots of Chinook salmon cruising the shallows. I’ve never targeted Chinook on the fly and I’d say I’m not very well equipped to deal with them. An 8wt rod (intended for steelhead fishing) with 12 lb tippet suddenly feels very inferior when you imagine hooking these freight trains. Unfortunately though, this would have to do as it’s the heaviest setup I currently own.
Well, it did… sorta. I hooked 2 fish, one of which lasted a mere couple of seconds before it bent my hook completely straight, bringing me to the realization that large hooks are a necessity for these beasts.

A Chinook Salmon landed during some morning fishing before work

It’s mind boggling how strong these fish are. This was my first Chinook and considering the fact that it was probably an average sized fish, I can’t imagine what a large one could do. I’ve caught plenty of other large fish in the past, but nothing has come even remotely close to the girth and power of this thing.
Since the fishing days are numbered, I decided to tie a handful of salmon flies tonight and will be heading back tomorrow morning for some revenge. Here’s hoping my equipment makes it through!

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