Experiments Sometimes Work: Just Combine the Kanektok and a Great Guide


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Late June, 2007: 60+ degrees, partly sunny, and a king salmon slot that outdid all my 23 years experience fishing the Kanektok. This particular day, I am with guide, John Duncan. We rip down the river from base camp to a spot a few bends below the familiar “Stinkhole.”

John and I watch fish roll and porpoise in a spot called Experimental, labeled that because it does not consistently produce. We decide to stop there, having caught a few earlier in the week. “Today” proved amazing. 28 king salmon hooked, and 26 landed. This minor miracle underlines the fact that I am not particularly skilled; but John Duncan certainly is! He would encourage me with where to cast, how to control my line, and what colors would attract Mr. King.

We fished Experimental for about six hours. I was unwilling to leave and try other holes. Other Duncan clients with more skill usually try different fishy-looking water throughout any given day. Not me! This was paradise. I can’t say I cleaned out the hole; plenty of fish were still showing when we left. Because each fish, not just the bigger ones, took many minutes to fight-then-release, I felt like I had fish on…nearly every minute of the day.

Duncan guides practice the adage: “If you are hooking fish, don’t move to find fish.” I never, especially that wonderful day, needed to have that coaching repeated. My hookups were usually powerful, occasionally violent. I loved it all: a few fish taped in around 35 pounds. Many were in the 18-25 pound range. I lost one that John estimated at 40-plus, judging from length, girth, and the smirk it showed when it spit, right back at me, my flame-colored spin and glow.

Not every experience on the Kanektok is like that one. I have occasionally hooked more on given days. But, I have not landed that high a percentage. Sometimes, I imagine, the fishing God just decides to display the type of magic that keeps me coming back...striving for a 40 hooked/40 landed outcome.

So, John and I headed back to camp, my arm super sore and smile super wide. A delicious dinner of New York Steak, followed by good whiskey and cigars in the smoke tent with my buddies…I call all that just an unbelievably good time. Sometimes experiments work.

Peter Loeb

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