One last go at the Chum Salmon
The Squamish River has been good to me since the first visit there in 1988 so I keep going back. I have enjoyed incredible Salmon Fishng here more times than not. The river is gorgeous and the surrounding landscapes are pure eye candy. And there’s lots of fish. In this case it’s the last day for retention of Chum Salmon on the Squamish River. The great thing about catching Chum Salmon here is that most fish you hook into on the lower river will be ‘tidal’ fish. Meaning they have come into the river on the last high tide. The lower river is notorious for this and given that the salt water is only a few kilometers downstream, these fish are fresh! Sea lice are common tell tales of ocean fresh fish and thus a common sight here. Ocean fresh Chum’s are also excellent fighters.
“But as my float and jig near the end of the drift it suddenly rips down”
So off I go. Leaving much too late in the day, but I can still sneak in a solid 2 hours. That’s loads of time to get a hookup I tell myself.
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I waste no time. Parking near the river I make near record time to suit up in the Orvis top line waders and boots, grab my rod and scurry down the trail to the river’s edge. A quick scouting session of water height and colour tells me where to go. Today the river is much lower than it was 5 days ago, about 2 feet lower. This changes the travel lanes of migrating salmon. Chum’s are lazy for the most part and choose slower water whenever possible. I find a nice section of the river where I know there could be a fish or two. It is very late in the season so there’s no guarantee there will be fish. But if my offering is in the ‘money spot’ I figure I have a chance anyways.
1 hour passes and I don’t see any evidence of fish, no rollers, swirls or jumpers. At this point I’m thinking that maybe it’s not meant to be. But as my float and jig near the end of the drift it suddenly rips down. I react accordingly and hit it hard to set the hook. Nothing materializes. I wonder if it was just a trout. But I also have renewed hope that it could have been a Chum. So I continue to fish. A few more minutes and nothing else happens. So I slowly fish my way down river. With each drift I move 5 yards down river. There’s lots of river to cover and lots of hope running through my veins that a fish is still possible. After moving downstream about 50 yards my float is now drifting through some really nice water. My next cast drifts perfectly through some sweet looking water and then it happens! My float rips under the surface and before I can even set the hook the fish is making a run and taking line from the reel! My heart rate sky rockets.
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This is a big fish and it has no problem dictating the battle. Each time I get this prime Chum into shallower water it departs frantically back into the main current. This fish is obviously hours from the ocean. This goes on for several sessions and with each passing minute I start to wonder if the fish is going to win. To land this brute I have to do everything just right and perhaps need a touch of luck. There’s a patch of very shallow water that the fish needs to be dragged through before it can be adequately landed. Just as the fish reaches the edge of the river and lays sideways in a few inches of water it rolls and twists and cuts my leader on a rock. Fortunately I was right there to deal with that problem. This big Chum was helpless in it’s struggle to swim through 2 inches of water back to freedom and so it was a decision in favour of the angler this time. As I take a close look at this beauty I can see several sea lice on it’s back, the clear sign of a ocean fresh fish.