It was essentially a new river, full of the unknown--and of possibility.
And it was still full of Chinooks, some whose journey had ended...
And many more still giving their all in that last wild dance of life and death.
I had come for Steelhead, and waded in as deep as I dared and began swinging flies. I tried to search the areas around and behind the redds that I could see, and the roiling water that told me redds lay under it.
But the salmon were everywhere. I snagged one. When I had winched it close enough to see I saw the red and hot-pink fly clearly hooked under its pectoral fin. I broke it off.
I rigged lighter and smaller, a 6 pound tippet and a little scrambled egg fly. I figured it might interest a Steelhead foraging for salmon eggs, and would be easy to break off if I snagged another salmon.
I was letting the fly dangle in the current on a long line when I felt a bump, and then a take. I tightened, not sure what I had hooked.
The deep, heavy pull said salmon. I began working it in to see whether it was snagged. It was soon clear that he was hooked in the side of the mouth under his gnarled kype. So I slowly and carefully brought him in.
He wasn't a "hot" fish, but he used all his weight and power to stay in the deep current. There were no explosive runs, but long surges that slowly and surely took line off the reel. It was a workout for my 5/6 weight rod, my little reel, and that 6 pound tippet.
I finally got him shallow enough to tail. He wasn't pretty, but he was all salmon.