Over the past couple years our good friend, Dake Traphagen, has joined us during the early part of our season at B.C. West in search of some big, bright, Dean River chinook salmon. As you can see, he’s had some success..
Recently, Dake sent us a beautifully written account of his experiences swinging flies for chinook on the Dean. It got us pretty excited about getting our swing on, and we think it will do the same for you too.
Idling down river in the early morning light to see if La Luna has pulled the water from the tidal pools, a young grizzly, standing on its hind legs, springs from the bank and gives us a curious look from the long marsh grass. The young one lopes away not to be seen again for several days.
The ebb pulls the water from the pool and the rocks begin to show, revealing the bones of the run. The sunlight has yet to reach the pools as the massive rock walls surrounding the river, left by glaciers nearly 100 million years ago, block their rays.
My fly begins searching the upper riffle leading into a sweet section of the flow. Suddenly an explosion, and a large King swirls and rolls, showing me his massive tail, then burrows into the current and, in a heart beat, is on the other side of the river searching for the cut in the exposed rock spit. His plans have been foiled; the water has receded too quickly, leaving the opening dry. In his fury, he turns and heads for the salt. The lunar pull has created a three foot standing wave just out from the mouth of the river. The salmon rushes into the broiling fjord but turns back up into the fresh, apparently not wanting to give up ground from its tiring journey. The test of wills and luck slowly work in my favor. The beach is close; the net dips in for the scoop, but with one last escape attempt, freedom comes once again for Tshawytscha. What more could one ask for: a perfect take, run, and final release from an ocean bright chinook. A rare gift from the Dean not soon to be forgotten.
The sun rises high in the sky creating diamonds on the riffles and rushing waters. Standing in the river, its flow pushing on my legs, I begin to feel the living waters coursing within my own body. Was there really ever any disconnect? We are both teaming with life and purpose, both part of the Mother in perfect time, moving towards the vastness of an unknown sea.
Evening approaches and the smell of cooler ocean air rolls up river. We motor down to the tidal pools once again as the light softens, only to find Lower Tidal is flooded, Luna is pushing hard upstream and the wind howls. Sea lions patrol the mouth of the river like a biker gang rolling into town. The Terns have their noses buried in the cobble seeking shelter from the gale. Even the eagles have braced themselves into the snag near the river’s end. I decide to give Upper Tidal a chance. It won’t be fishable for long as the salt continues to push its way upstream.
Seemingly out of no where, a giant dark head, the size of a medicine ball, rolls up directly in front of me. These are the eyes of a hunter, not the doe eyes of a harbor seal. Our eyes lock onto each other, two hunters in the rushing waters and howling wind meeting for a moment in the fully present now. The lion slips under the water’s surface with the power of Atlas and disappears on its way to join its mates. I’m left with a little stick, some string, and feathers to hunt for my quarry; do I really have a chance?
The cast zips a few feet above the water, trying to stay under the wind. Cast, swing, step, repeat. The rock island is slowly disappearing and, what was once dry stone, is now becoming the tail out of the pool. As my fly swings in close to shore, a salmon erupts from the shallows. I can’t believe she was hiding from the lion in such shallow water. The encounter is brief, but completely satisfying. I look around for the visiting grizzly, sea lions, eagles, and salmon, as well as the howling wind and rain. The scene is raw, primal, nature pounding on my seemingly frail body. Could it possibly get any better? I think not.