May 2nd on the Kalum

by Noel F. Gyger

A look at one of British Columbia's premier streams.

My guests are ready and eager to go. The day before they had a count of four to three each. We make one stop at a convenience store to pick up last minute items and a quick coffee to go. We drive up the Kalum Lake road for five miles, stop at our shop and pick up the 19-foot drift boat then drive the nine miles to the launch site. Everyone’s in great spirits, laughing and joking all the way and the only serious topic is sportfishing. What a great way to make a living.

I back the boat to the edge of the river and within 10 minutes we’re drifting. The drift is five miles long. Lines are made ready. Today we’re pulling plugs or using jet planers to pull spin & glow and eggs. The plug we’re using is a #20 hot-shot. Any color is fine as long as they shine and look new. Hook size is a #3 Gamakatsu. I use a size "0" jet planer. Spin & Glow #4 combined with #4 Gamakatsu hook. A little bigger hook is used with spin & glow so that an egg bag can be added, if desired. All hooks are tied with the "egg loop" knot and a four or five foot leader is tied between the jet planer and spin & glow. Reels are usually filled to capacity with quality 20-pound test line.

To keep track of our daily catches when pulling plugs I have devised the following system: If we had an eight to six day, it would mean that we hooked a total of 14 fish and landed six. The number eight on the left is the fish we hooked but lost and the number six on the right is the fish that we landed.

Time 9:20 AM. Three bank fishermen were plunked-out at the put-in, so we floated down to an area we call the pensioners hole, a distance of 100 yards and started fishing there. I told them to let out 60-feet of line. All three rods had hot-shots on. Lines went out quickly and I started to work the hole. As I started my swing to the right - POW - the rod on the left doubled over and we were into our first fish after only 10 minutes. The two other rods were pulled in, clearing the way for Les to play the fish.

Within seconds we all realized we had a powerful Chinook hooked. I slipped the boat down-stream and hit the beach approximately 200 yards from where the fish was first hooked. Les jumped out of the boat onto the shore and continued to fight the fish. Cameras were clicking and videos rolling.

The fish seemed to stop fighting but there was still a lot of pressure on the line as if it has sat on the bottom and decided not to move. This is a common Chinook trait. After 10 minutes we realized it was tangled with some line that had previously been broken off. The only thing we could do was get back in the boat, row out and hope we could get the mess off. Les pulled on the line to its breaking point and to our amazement and delight the other line broke and Les still had the fish. Back to shore we go, Les continued to play this fish and within another 10 minutes he had landed a 30-pound doe Chinook, bright silver, fresh from the ocean 114 miles away.

So now our count was zero to one.

We celebrated as I pushed the drift-boat back into the stream and drifted to the next hole. This is a slow moving pool with a rocky tail-out. We started letting the plugs out high in the pool as not to spook the holding fish.

When all three lines are out 100 feet and in the center of the pool, I pull on the oars and they dive under. I start to sweep the pool. After four or five passes we are almost ready to give up and float onto the next pool when rod one doubles over. Instantly the line goes slack. When Les reels in the slack line a powerful Chinook rips off 50-yards of line and goes streaking through the tail-out. In a scramble, the other two lines are cleared out of the way. This fish, landed at the top of the next pool, weighed approximately 35-pounds and since Les already had taken his Chinook for the day, this fish was released, but not before pictures and videos were taken. Time 10:30 AM. The count is now zero to two and off we go.

Since this fish was landed at the top of this pool I decided to fish the lower end. Lines are stripped out on the fast side, and when all were out, I slipped down 50 feet to position the plugs just above the large rocky tail-out and started sweeping to the left. The plugs only fish effectively for one or two minutes because the back-eddy catches them and moves them upstream. After one sweep and no hits, I decide to try one more time. Lines are brought in and let out again. I make the sweep again. The plugs are coming into the slot when line one doubles over with a fish. Seconds later rod three does the same. At first we think its the same fish but we soon realize we have a double-header. We landed two very nice Steelhead weighing about 12 to 14-pounds each. Both were released. What a great day, we had not been fishing for more than two hours and we landed two chinook and two steelhead. The count is zero to four. Time is 11 AM.

We float down a mile passing over a long stretch of low, fast water and around a corner to the kiss hole. While approaching it we can see Chinook rolling on the right side. The kiss hole is a large deep run so I instruct my guests to snap on the jet planers and hook on egg bags. Eggs work well on spawning salmon. We let out 100 feet of line at the top of the run. I start working oars, moving the drift boat to the right, making sure the bait is presented where we’ve seen the rolling fish. It didn’t take long, two sweeps and a very large Chinook took the bait. Rod two was into his first fish. I stayed high in the pool, right side, moved very close to shore and dropped anchor in two feet of water. My guests played the fish from the boat while I went to shore to get some good camera angles. After 30 minutes of pumping Dave finally lands a 50-pound doe.

Score zero to five. Time 12:10 PM. It’s lunch time and I offer my guests the choice of a nice shore lunch complete with camp fire, which takes time, or we all can make a sandwich on board and keep fishing. It was unanimous - keep fishing!

I float down to the next run and keep the planers on because this is a long run too. I started at the very top and worked down. Twenty minutes had passed since I started fishing this run. When were almost ready to reel in, rod two buckles over and we’re into another fish. The fish goes streaking through the tail-out and managed to wrap itself around a rock and broke off. Score one to five. Time 12:45 PM.

We float down through the shoot and slowly I row a long calm stretch. The sun is shining, the fishing so far has been excellent and everyone is in good spirits. As we approach the tail-out we notice Chinook rolling on the left side in a deep slot just above the tail-out. I know from experience that the Steelhead hold on the right side on a gravel bar we call the reds. Planers are taken off in favor of #20 Special Edition (SE) hot-shots. One hundred feet of line is reeled out for all three rods and I start sweeping between rolling chinook and spawning steelhead. Rod three jumps and immediately goes slack. We realize the fish had spit the hook. The hot-shot of rod three starts to shake again. I row the drift-boat to the left and before I get to the middle of the pool rod three rips over, just like the fish had been following it, and almost breaks the rod in half as line goes screaming out. We’re sure that this fish is hooked well but our luck is running out - within seconds the line goes slack, another fish lost and we’re not even sure if it was a chinook or steelhead. Score three to five.

By now we must have spooked the fish so we decide to move on. Everyone is feeling down a bit from losing the last three fish, but we all agreed with the old saying, "that’s fishing."

As we float out of the run I navigate the drift-boat through a shallow rocky section into the next pool called the Jones’s hole. As we float around the corner we observe two bald eagles that I see almost every drift. Hot-shots are left on. We spend another 30 minutes sweeping back and forth fishing but couldn’t raise a bite. Off we go through more shallow water, bumping rocks, trying to avoid getting hung-up.

The next pool is called the double-header and is the half-way point on the drift. The pool got its name from the fact that on one drift we had hooked and landed two chinook at the same time.

The plugs are unsnapped and replaced by the jet planer. This is a short, deep pool whose water circles to the left. Lines have to be kept short to 50 feet and the jet planer is set for the deepest dive. We usually see Chinook rolling here, but didn’t observe any today. After 20 minutes of no hits, we decide to move on in favor of a run that has better conditions for plugging. We kept the jet planers on and adjusted them for shallow dive for the next run. Hooks are checked and sharpened. Fresh egg bags are put on. All this extra attention and good fishing habits didn’t do us any good because we didn’t get a bite after 20 minutes. I float down to the next run and lines are set out again. Ten minutes pass when rod three buckles over just as I was pulling hard on the right oar. Rod three nearly touches the bow of the boat. Panic is on again! After a 30 minute battle a bright silver 65-pound doe chinook is landed on the left shore. The party is on, especially after John released this big fish. Score now is three to six. Time 2:30 PM.

We float a half mile down a stretch of shallow, fast water to a big pool and holding area called the horseshoe. We see chinook rolling everywhere. All tackle is checked and 100 feet of line is fed out. After 10 minutes rod three rips over. John is ecstatic! This is his second fish in 20 minutes. After a short fight he lands a nice 15-pound doe steelhead that also was released. Count three to seven. We normally would spend more time at the horseshoe but since we’ve spent so much time landing fish we had to keep moving.

The next run is usually a very good run and sure enough we had two good rips, one on rod one and the other on rod three - John almost jumped out of his skin! Both fish were lost after a few seconds. Score five to seven. Time 3:30 PM. We’re on the move again to a run called lower rock alley. Once again, we had a good rip on rod three but the fish got off. Count six to seven. We float into a good pool we call the loser hole named for the time we lost six chinook in this hole before landing the seventh.

Planers are removed in favor of hot-shots. After three sweeps rod one gets a good hit and the line goes slack. Les winds the reel like crazy but the fish has gotten off. Count seven to seven. Time 4:45 PM.

We make two more sweeps before we pull out of this hole. No more hits

We’re plugging the last hole called last chance. Everyone agreed they didn’t care if they had anymore hits because already the day was fabulous. They no sooner said this when rod two doubles over and the line goes screaming out! Another large chinook is on the hook. I beach the drift-boat and Dave chases the fish. Dave ends up landing it at the drift-boat take-out. A few young kids were there watching the show and were amazed when Dave finally beached this 50-pound doe chinook - and released it. Count five to eight. Time 5:30 PM. My guests all laughed when I said, "Are we all done at five to eight?"

My guests gave me a hearty, "yes, we’re done for today - but there’s still tomorrow."

We had a pretty good day. We hooked 13 fish and landed three steelhead and five chinook.

© 1985, Noel F. Gyger