|Where Salmon Is King|
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Where Salmon Is King
Give me British Columbia for awesome fishing and fabulous scenery. I watch the rhythmic bobbing of the bent rod as the downrigger deploys a silvery, plug-cut herring into the salmon strike zone 40 feet below.
My captain eases his vessel as close as possible to the kelp beds, right where the herring and needlefish seek refuge from the hunting packs of marauding chinook salmon. I gaze across the deep-green beds of vegetation toward the rocky shoreline. Two loud chirps pull my attention to the forest where a majestic bald eagle scans its domain while perched in an evergreen. The sight of this feathered fisherman reassures me.
The captain shouts, "Strike!" I turn and see the limber scepter go momentarily straight as the bait is pulled free from the downrigger clip. I grab the rod and reel like a dervish until the line comes tight. Simultaneously, the rod bends deeply under the weight of a heavy fish. I strike once, twice, three times for good measure. Line flies off the reel at an alarming pace as the wild freight train heads toward the Alaskan islands in the distance. The locomotive finally begins to slow down on its first run.
"Reel with constant pressure and keep a steady bend in the rod," the skipper advises calmly. That's a sentence I'll remember well in British Columbia.
Having rehearsed the fighting technique the night before, my battle tactic consists of keeping the nine-foot rod in constant arc status.
I palm the revolving spool to provide extra drag on the fish. As the determined adversary tires, the combination of my rapid reeling and the following boat brings us within 40 feet of the prize.
Another angler sees it first. "It's a nice chinook, close to 30 pounds." My heart races with excitement as beads of perspiration drizzle down my forehead in the cool air.
Without a hint of warning, and very much to my surprise, a violent eruption engulfs the big fish. A half-ton seal leaps skyward with my salmon dangling from its whiskery jaws. On instinct, I pull for all I'm worth, and amazingly I win the brief tug-of-war. The marauding seal remains deep and unseen, and all hands onboard team up to ease the wounded fish into a net. It's a delightful choreography that finally lands the beautiful salmon lying at my feet and rivets the memory into the picture album of my mind.
Such wonderful scenes regularly unfold when the salmon migration reaches British Columbia. And even if the adversaries you have come so far to catch come aboard without the added pursuit and excitement of a hairy predator in chase, many other sights and sounds always delight the traveling angler. I commonly see bears on the shoreline, whimsical puffins and large pods of killer whales breaching and blowing just yards from the boat.