I remember several king salmon eating my spinner within two feet of the water’s edge on the sand at the mouth of Elk River — in 1979.
Flash forward to 2009. I had been fishing the lagoon at the mouth of the Elk for several days. Most days yielded a couple of grabs, but so far, no fish to hand. Systematically covering the water, I soon found my hands up in the air, ready to roll my fly line and Clouser forward, make a back-cast, and let fly, so to speak.
There was my little Clouser, hesitating at the surface of the water, three feet from the sand. I was already aiming the cast, but my peripheral vision locked on a chinook charging the fly, mouth open, head out of water. No way to set the hook. No time to think. Just react. Run away. Try not to trip on driftwood. Rod over right shoulder. Line came tight and fish was on.
Spectacular. Up close and personal. A fantastic Clouser eat. I cherished the battle, took photos of Burkheimer Rod in action, photos of fish, released hatchery three-year-old, sat down, ate an energy bar, and thanked the fish gods for – finally – landing an Elk River king.
And then I replayed the memory of three fish I caught in 1979, a hundred yards from where I sat. Thirty years later – and a king salmon on a fly is still a thrill.