Knut …. is a good fisherman, he knows the signs; the rising moon, the right wind, the time of the day, and the year, the tide changes, the bait, the size of hooks, the line, rod, reel. He seldom comes home without his bounty. But, to get the big one, and land it, it helps to be two.
This day it was my lucky day, but also a day of trial and tests of skills; if I had failed, I would never be invited again. We went out in his nice wooden boat, about 25′, inboard engine, old-time craftmanship. We did not go far, actually in Porpoise Bay, close to shore, only about 15′ – 20′ dept, sand ground, some flounders, but I never thought we would catch any salmon at this place.
I had a nice mooching rod, a wooden hand-made reel, Peetz from Victoria B.C., the only one to use if you are serious, lots of 15 lb. line, small lead weights, and as leader about 8 lb. line, and most important, two sets of triple hooks, no. 10, very small, one treaded in the nose of the live herring, in such a way that the mouth was not damaged, and the herring would live a long time, or hopefully be taken by a salmon soon. One through the back fin area; this way the herring could swim around, looking enticing for the salmon.
Knut had something similar, always new leaders, new hooks, never save your leader or old hook for next time, the line can be damaged by a dog-fish, or just from the sun, or just too old. Most fishermen use too heavy equipment, to heavy line, leader, and most important; way too big hooks. I often used a single nr. 10 hook, or two, depending on what type salmon I was trying for.
With the small hooks, and thin line, you get many more hits, and yes, you lose a few, but in total you have more action and more to bring home at the end. The mooching rod and equipment can only be used for mooching, like fishing with a large fly rod, anchored or drifting, at secret spots where the salmon feed or swim by at certain times.
For trolling or other type of fishing, you have other rods, reels and equipment.But mooching is the king of fishing. We were not anchored, just drifting on the sandbank, probably enjoying a cold beer in the summer day. I remember we got a few small flounders, good food, but nothing to show your neighbor over the fence.
When the salmon struck Knut’s line, the reel screamed as if all hell broke loose. And it did. I reeled my line in as fast as I could. To tangle lines with a running fish is a cardinal sin, and the punishment; I don’t want to think of it. Knut knew what to do, but he was shaking. It is not everyday you get one like this on, and more seldom to get it in the boat.
He would be most worried about my skills, to assist in the landing, using a gaff or a net, may be having to start the engine and run after the fish if it ran the line out. With 15 or 20 lb. main line, and 8 lb. or so leader, and the small hook, the salmon had the advantage by far. Now it is only the skills of the fisherman, and his assistant, that can save the day.
In shallow waters it is always worse, in deeper water one feels better, less chances of tangling the line on something on the bottom. There is also the advantage of not being at anchor, one do not have to bend over the bow and tread the rod under the anchor line, every time the fish crosses, and it will, many times.
There are two thoughts of how to deal with a running salmon, using light tackle. The usual is to try to brake the run as much as you think the line can take. But; If you have some guts and some skills, you wait for a point in the run, and then pull out line like crazy, give it slack, the fish think he is loose of this line, and will slow down, actually return to the site he ran from. You wind in slowly, prepared to let the line go when he runs again. Over and over, I don’t give the fish the credit of being smart, but somethimes, I wonder.
Knut knew how to play this perfect, he was now commanding me, get the gaff, no get the big net; if you fuck this up I will kill you. That was just a friendly way of telling me to be sharp. I took the net, went to the other side of the boat and dipped in the water to wet it, when the time came, it had to be wet and not float and screw up the motion.
I could also do this with the gaff, but then you have to be really sure of yourself, at the right time, one motion with the right amount of power, pulling the hook up from below, not touching the line, just getting a solid hit on the back of the head, and pull the salmon into the boat in one motion, not a job for amateurs, they usually hit the gaff down onto the back and break the fish off the line; lost for ever.
I had the big net ready, most fishermen have nets that are too small, the whole fish have to get inside, or it will just fall out and break the line. The fish will get loose, because the hook get stuck in the net. Most fishermen have been there and done that.
The man with the rod have to play the fish up along the side of the boat, for example from the back to the forward. The netter have to be positioned behind, and at the very right moment, split seconds, often after a few trial runs; the wet net down in behind, no splashing, no ripples, that scares the fish; pulling powerful forward until the whole fish is in the net; and if not able to, abandon the attempt and wait for the next chance. Very important.
Knut and me had not fished together before this, he was not comfortable with my handling of the situation, I could hear that from his yelling, but that went by my ears, I was confidant that when my chance would come, and it did, I would land him the huge fish on the first attempt; and by the way, many fish are lost because the netter pulls up the net with the weight on the handle, it will break, the fish lost, and nightmares lasts for the rest of one’ live, and you never invited to go fishing again.
I done these mistakes before, I did not have to repeat them now. I pulled the handle up to a 90 angel, and there it was, trapped with no way to go, and Knut could trow his rod down and help bring it on board. It was his fish.
The relief of landing one like this is like winning olympic gold, you have trained all your life, offered your life to fishing, enhancing your skills, trading fishing trips for family life, and when the moment comes, and you win, you let it all loose. The memories are for life.
If Knut would tell this story, it would probably describe his helper as a useless land crab that almost cost him the big catch. The truth is usually somewhere in between.