“If You Can’t Hold ’em, Hug ’em!”

My salmon fly rods are 10 foot, 10 weight saltwater sticks, but they are barely enough rods for the size of some of the Chinook salmon in the Muskegon River this year. The issue is this; once the fish is played out (Tom’s mouth hooked 26 lb. buck towed us around for 40 minutes.), how do you lift the fish to the surface to net it?  And then, once it’s in the boat, how do you hero shot it, if the fisherman can’t get his hand around the tail of the fish? Answer? You bear hug them! At least, that’s what Tom did,

And, as if that arm scorching battle were not enough for the day, shortly thereafter, Tom hooked another head shaking beast, which, get this, took us one hour and twenty minutes and a good quarter mile chase down river before Tom lost it in a riffle.  I took four shots at that fish with the net, but every time the net would touch the water, away would shoot the fish, its weight and strength too great for Tom to stop it without turning my rod into matchsticks!

Needless to say, days end, Tom was whipped, and I don’t think I’ve ever in 16 years of guiding turned the boat right, left and 360 degrees around plus throttled the engine forward and backward so many times to the point I found myself wondering if the throttle cables under the floor would blow up.

In short, what a day! Tom saved my rod at least five or six times when the fish would shoot under the boat when I would try to net them. Rod jammed into the water, sometimes nearly to the butt and Tom racing to the rear of the boat—one time tumbling over the seat by the way—it was a circus, which had it been filmed, likely would have gone viral.

Great fun, Tom! Superb job on both of the beasts you fought today!

Captain Tom Kuieck