Our adventure took place during the summer of 1993. That particular year we had a small snow pack on the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges and the Fraser River had reached its final draw-down stages much earlier than normal. All of these factors combined were good news for anxious anglers who now (if the fish Gods cooperated) might just get a shot at some of the best chinook fishing in years.
Sure enough, the Fraser lost its muddy tinge from the fast flowing spring run off and cleared early. The good news of plenty of big, braggin'-size chinook had spread like a wild fire amongst the elite in the tight-knit fraternity of Fraser River bar fishermen.
Somehow, while down at his favorite watering hole enjoying a few tall cool ones, old Luckless Mike got wind of all these whopper-sized chinook, just waiting to be caught. The next thing you know Luckless Mike has my phone number dialed from a noisy pay phone and in a slightly inebriated voice he is trying to explain about a river filled to the brim with giant chinook. We excitedly made plans for an early morning rendezvous at the Dewdney boat launch, just east of Mission, B.C.
Saturday morning dawned beautifully clear, windless and warm--about as close to picture-perfect as you could get. Although right on time, Luckless Mike didn't appear so bright-eyed and busy-tailed when he arrived. We launched our boat with no difficulties and soon made our way to one of the popular gravel-bars in the middle of the Fraser River.
We had fished for a few hours before anyone on the gravel bar landed one of those chinook that were just waiting to be caught, and at seven pounds it was far from a whopper. Around noon I hooked, landed and released a fairly decent fish with a healed-over seal bite on its side--the last action that I'd see for the day. This certainly wasn't the case for old Luckless Mike, he was about to get a "fish bite" he'd remember for the rest of his life.
I'll never forget the thrilled look on Luckless Mike's face when, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, he finally had a rod in his hands with a serious bow and a wild fighting chinook on the end of his line. From the moment the chinook hit we knew it had a fiery spirit. Long ... line sizzling runs and powerful, rod-thumping head shakes were all part and parcel for this huge fish.
After a 30-minute tug-o-war battle the silvery-sided King began to tire and inch its way closer to the shore. Luckless Mike asked me to get ready with the net. I carefully walked out from the beach holding the landing net at ready in the water. Luckless Mike lifted the tip of his rod and gently steered what appeared to be a prime 40+ pound chinook into the waiting net. Then, all hell broke loose. With a few mighty blasts from its big tail, the chinook blew a huge hole right through the net and continued his fight for freedom. Luckily, for Luckless Mike, the fish somehow managed to stay hooked and he hung on to his silvery prize.
A number of anglers had now gathered around Mike--some offering words of encouragement--and some silently rooting for the fish. Luckless Mike said he was going to drag the fish up on to the beach the very next chance he got. And, with one mighty heave a huge, toothy, hooked-kype chinook was 15-feet up the shelving gravel bar. And, just as fast, the fish flopped, came unhooked and was doing a downhill swim in the gravel, heading back towards the water's edge. Now things began to get interesting. About four anglers did a dog pile on the poor chinook and the slippery fish squirted out the bottom like a greased pig. Luckless Mike saw his trophy-size chinook was about to make a clean escape and decided to put an end to these shenanigans once and for all. Old Luckless pounced on his chinook and the two of them rolled down the bank with gravel, scales, slime and unspeakable vulgarities flying in every direction. Suddenly, with a blood curdling scream it all ended as quickly as it started.
Now I know your going to find this hard to believe, but I swear its true. Gripped with fear and horror-struck, his eyes as big as pie plates, Luckless Mike was lying near the river's edge. The huge, toothy chinook had a pitt bull-like death grip on the left cheek of Luckless Mike's short-clad caboose. We tried to pry and then pull the fish off of old Mike's hind-end, but it was no use. Finally, we resorted to a few dozen, well placed bonks on the chinook's head with Mike's very own custom-carved, salmon lullaby stick.
The end results were not pretty or suitable for the faint of heart. Ater finally dispatching the fish and poking it in the eye with a stick to make sure it was indeed dead, one of the braver anglers inspected the deep gashes left on Luckless Mike's backside. It was generally agreed he should have gone for a few dozen stitches and some cleaning up, but he said he'd already had enough excitement for the time being and declined.
That pretty much wrapped up our outing for the day and brings an end to this amazing story. Luckless Mike spent the better part of the return trip to the boat launch standing -- and most of the next month sleeping on his stomach.
Why just the other day, I asked Luckless Mike if we should go out and give those big chinooks another try. He simply said no, its a little too soon.
Last modified on March 18, 1998
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