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
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
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.
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