November is salmon season on the Oregon Coast. Rain falls, the rivers rise and break through to the Pacific Ocean. Salmon surge in on incoming tides, riding the surf into the tidal estuaries of their birth.
Last weekend, my brother Nate, Nick Symmonds (yep, that Nick Symmonds) and I decided to host a homecoming party for our salmonid friends.
We headed out onto the beach in the morning with huge swells and an incoming tide. The river mouth was packed with fishermen. Chrome Chinook salmon were scooting over the bar in pods of four to five fish at a time.
As the tide came in, more fish pushed through and staged in a backwater eddy just inside the mouth of the river. The tide also pushed out the majority of fishermen, who’d decided to drive to the mouth of the river (instead of hiking in like we had) and had to leave before the ocean swallowed up their rigs.
As the water came up around us, we cast into the slower water inside the bar with small comet fly patterns. Barrett (of Caddis Fly Tying Fame) gave us the low-down on size and color schemes. A short shank size 2 hook, small beadchain eyes, tied in orange and white, chartreuse and black, and blue and white are effective fly patterns for Chinook salmon entering the rivers.
Nate hooked up with a jack (a small two-year old salmon) and quickly brought it in. Then five minutes later he hooked into a real hot fish. His rod exploded as the salmon ripped through all of his fly line and into the backing. Nate was sprinting down the beach after it when it jumped in the air and broke free.
Based on a glimpse of the fish flying in midair, at a couple hundred yards away, I’d call it 25lbs.
Soon after that we lost what little high ground we had left and surging waves were practically pushing us into the pool. With a two more hours of high tide yet to come in, we were forced to retreat.