Night fishing has many dangers not the least of which is being connected to an enormous fish in the depths of darkness.
Author Chuck Sams gives us a blow-by-blow of not only losing the fish and a good chunk of his rig, but also a touch of poise.
The sky was clear the night the salmon stole the fly line. I remember looking up at all the stars and commenting on how many there were, the breath streaming from my mouth in thick white clouds and drifting downwind against the dark purple sky. I looked back toward the river and waited for my eyes to adjust. But even with dilated pupils it’s hard to pick out the drift in dark. Strip, strip, strip, roll the fly rod around your head and drop the weight and fly up stream. Then mend and lift the rod tip and wait to feel the tick, tick, tick of the bottom. If you’re a Hex or Mouse trout fisherman you know what it’s like, the dark not the bottom bouncing.
I remember the fly, a Green Butt Skunk. I know what you are thinking, "That’s a hell of a name for a fly." And you’d be right. I always thought so too. I remember it because you can pick up the chartreuse on the back end of the fly in the dark, one of the few colors you can see when it’s that dark. That fly always brings to mind how I feel after our four day primitive salmon camp back in the woods with only a hole in the ground for a bathroom.
No wonder they nicknamed them "King Salmon" cause this Son Of a Bitch was doing his best to show me he ruled the river!
So there I was on a clear, cold, dark night anchored in front of a good drift lobbing Green Butt Skunks at the salmon. If there is one thing I’ve learned about fly fishing there is a sweet spot in every drift and I was busy trying to find it when a fish tried to rip the rod out of my hands. I could tell right away I was connected to one pissed off Pacific salmon. No wonder they nicknamed them "King Salmon" cause this Son Of a Bitch was doing his best to show me he ruled the river!
I hardly fish alone, and that night was no exception. I mean I'll do it if I need a fix, get some fresh air and feel the pull of a fish, but I'd much rather have some buddies along to share the experience. I could hear a voice over my shoulder from the bank, "Oh shit, he's pissed off."
For a moment I thought I had a chance. The fish would take some line then I'd crank and get it back. I could picture him in my head, a big male salmon with crooked gnarly teeth sticking out every which way and fighting scars all along his sides. It'd make a great picture, the flash from the camera lighting up the woods behind me and showing off the beast, me smiling like a madman and arching my back just so I could lift him up for the shot.
I didn’t know if they were preparing to net the fish or console me after I got my ass kicked.
Then something happened. I don't know what happened, but the fish started running. Not just any run but a reel smoking, knuckle busting run. I heard the voice behind me again, "He's spooked." I was having trouble turning him so I leaned into the rod. It's called "Putting the stick to him" in salmon camp vernacular. I put the stick to him and now that the fish was spooked and running I could see headlamps and flashlights shining up in the trees and bouncing off the surface of the river. They were getting in position on the bank, but at that point I didn't know if they were preparing to net the fish or console me after I got my ass kicked. It gave the whole situation this weird discotheque strobe light type feeling. I heard the voice behind me again, "You're going to break that rod!" My response was something along the line of, "That’s what they are made for,” and, "An excellent excuse to buy a new fly rod!"
It didn’t take long for me to see the comedy of losing your entire set up to one souped-up salmon.
Then it happened.
There was a rifle shot that echoed down the river in the dark and a sound like somebody stuck a baseball card in bike spokes, everything went silent and slack. I turned on my headlamp and the first thing I did was check for bullet holes in my jacket. The second thing I did was shine it up and down the length of the fly rod looking for the break.
It was still in one piece.
I could hear the voice behind me, "You did it now. You broke the rod." I shined my light on the reel, everything was gone except a few wraps of backing. "That bastard stole my fly line!" I said. The dark, scary forest suddenly was filled with loud laughter. Somebody ran down the bank with a light trying to save me thirty bucks. But soon he returned, his light bobbing through the woods along the bank, laughing like a mad man. "I don't see anything down there. I even checked all the logjams."
I'll admit I was pretty upset at first, I mean I work hard for my money and my gear. I don't like losing money. But it didn't take long for me to see the comedy of losing your entire setup to one souped-up salmon. The backing, the fly line, the leader, the weight, and the swivel; even the Green Butt Skunk had been taken. The best I can figure, when I tied my backing off, I must have nicked the Dacron with the scissors I used to trim the tag end and when he ran out enough line...Bang! The night the salmon stole the fly line would forever live in infamy.
Chuck Sams lives in South Lyon, Michigan near the banks of the Huron River. His previous writing credits include Editor - The Cedar Sweeper Magazine, Woods-n-Water News, Sporting Tales Magazine and Northern Michigan Journal.
Chucks “Tributary Youghiogheny” was the winner of Trout Unlimited’s 10 Special Places essay contest. That remarkable story was published in TROUT Summer 2016 Magazine and you can read it by clicking here. This is Chuck's 5th contribution to The QE Journal.