Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Great Grabs

October 28, 2008 — Ed and I were fishing the River Styx. A slow day, as far as fishing goes. Only a few Chinook were showing, no grabs, and now the tide had turned in, sweeping leaves, twigs, logs, lawn-clippings, plastic water bottles, Styrofoam bait tubs, strings of kelp, and all sorts of unidentifiable junk past our anchor point.

Basically, the river transformed from highly fishable to – not-a-hope-in-the-world.

Not willing to give up on the day, as normal humans would have, we pulled into the lee of a tree, where the main tidal flow swept past us, leaving a debris-clear, if dirty water, area where we could at least pretend to fish.

For the umpteenth time, Ed asked about the fly lines we were fishing, about sink rates of our respective lines, and why-on-earth my line had one of those silly loop-to-loop connections that seemed engineered to hang up in my guides just when it shouldn’t.

I stood there in the pram, patiently explaining the difference between an integrated-head versus a shooting-head fly line. Doing the show-and-tell thing, I reeled the shooting head nearly into the reel and held it in the palm of my right hand, displaying the loop-to-loop connection between head and running line. To keep the instructional moment manageable, I then reached out and grasped the shooting head in my left hand.

Do the math.

I had ten feet of the shooting head within the guides and ten feet from the tip-top to where I held the line in my left hand. All that remained was ten feet of shooting head and nine feet of leader dangling in brownish water down-current from the boat.

I gave the lecture. Ed pretended to listen. A frequently repeated ritual. The tide brought new treasures past our anchor point.

About half-way through the lecture my concentration was interrupted by a steady yank, yank, yank of my left hand. Shortly thereafter, my brain received the message: “hello Jay, a salmon is eating your fly.”

Jay Nicholas' Great Grabs

End of lecture. I made a big sweeping pull with my left arm to set the hook. Mr. salmon answered with that wonderful head shake and the fight was on.

Go figure. I still love to make 90-foot casts, and do so regularly, just to remind myself that I can. But sometimes, it’s the close hang-downs that deliver the grab.

Jay Nicholas' Great Grabs

Jay Nicholas' Great Grabs


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1 Response to Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Great Grabs

  1. Erik Stowell says:

    Great Story! I’ve hooked some big trout in close, reeling up after the day’s “last cast”. This September, a buddy of mine new to swinging flies hooked 4 chrome bright steelies on the Deschuttes, casting no more than 40′, while I was flinging 80-110′ casts with a spey rod, watching him get most the action. A good reminder that the big ones aren’t always a long cast away.

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