Early Kings In The Marquette Mist
This blog installment comes courtesy of fishhound pro Chris "Uber" Raines.
I can definitely say this is my favorite time of year to be on the Pere Marquette River in Michigan.
The nights are cool and the days are warm. Fog envelops the river corridor as the early morning air holds moisture above the dew-covered ground. It's still dark as we back our boats into the cool river water. Anticipation is high. The gear is readied and the boat waiting.
We head out in the darkness with hopes of hooking giant, early running king salmon. While most are still snuggly wrapped in their comfortable beds, we prepare for battle.
After a quick trip downstream, we anchor on the first spot. It feels good. This is a top-producing hole, and as we get ready to cast, the first signs of fish appear. Splash! Downstream a fresh salmon rolls on the surface. New to the river, these migratory fish recklessly make their way upstream to spawn.
We prepare to intercept the first waves of fish. Casting to the bank and slowly swinging the holes and runs, we cover every square inch of water. Then, like a ton of bricks, comes the hit. And I mean hit. Like no other fish in the freshwater world type of hit. These king salmon will destroy lures on the strike. The rod surges with the strain of a 20-pounder. The drag's screaming, the rod remains doubled over. You suddenly realize that you're tangling with a beast.
Before you can gain your composure, the fish jumps. Sometimes 3 feet out of the water, and the aerial acrobatics are worthy of a gold medal. You're hanging on for dear life. With the rod angled away from the fish, you begin to make headway. Now the fight's on and you're constantly watching for the fish to run for structure.
Armed with heavy line and stout tackle, you muscle the fish out of the wood. It makes a couple of runs and now it's near the boat.
The net's ready, the fish is tired. But it makes one last bid for freedom. It uses the river's current and brute strength to do its best to end this fight in its favor. Not today Mr. Salmon. Today we win.
With a quick twist of the pliers we remove the hook. A photo shoot ensues to prove the story, and then we quickly revive the fish. Using a Boga Grip, we let the fish take a well-deserved rest. Soon the fish will be released back into the river to continue its push upstream and do what it entered the river to do – spawn and die, naturally. We simply teach it one last lesson before its swims on.
After rinsing off the net and stowing it, I reach for my coffee. A great sense of confidence fills the boat. Eager to get another we continue to cast. The sun's just peeking up over the trees in the eastern sky. The dew's drying, the birds are chirping and then suddenly, wha-bam! The peaceful, quiet morning shatters and the river's surface explodes with another king salmon that screams across the surface.
I'm a fishing guide. Life is good.
Chris "Uber" Raines first felt the mighty pull of Michigan's Pere Marquette River in 1987. A half-century later, he's still there and serves as head guide at the Pere Marquette River Lodge. An Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide, Raines is also an accomplished centerpin, bait and backplug fisherman. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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