Those fantasies came true for me last week. Linda and I flew to Juneau to catch a cruise ship and I saw rivers full of salmon just like the stories I had read. And I caught some of them.
When getting ready to go I went by Berry's Sporting Goods looking for some kind of rod I could pack in a suitcase. He showed me some break down rod and reel sets but I really wanted a rod I could put one of my spinning reels on since they have good drag, something I would need if I did hook a salmon.
I spotted what looked like a collapsible rod in a rack, picked it up and started laughing. It was exactly what I was looking for, a 5 foot rod that telescoped down to about 14 inches long but it had a "Spiderman" logo on it. It also came with a reel with the same logo.
I left the reel but took the rod home and put one of my Shimano Sedona reels loaded with eight pound test PLine Fluorocarbon line on it. I also packed some small spinners and 1/8 ounce jig heads with some spare curly tail grubs in various colors. I was all set for salmon fishing.
When we landed in Juneau just after lunch and headed to the hotel I spotted salmon in the streams we crossed, just like what I had read about many years ago. But rather then pristine wilderness, these fish were right down town!
After getting settled in we walked down to the water and worked down the riprap to the edge. It was tidal water here but I could see salmon working up the edges headed up stream. On my first cast with a small white crappie jig I hooked what turned out to be a six pound chum salmon and landed it. The Spiderman rod bent double but held up. The fish did not fight real hard. It looked bad and I think it had already spawned and was dying.
Time was short so we headed back to the hotel. The next day I went back to the big river and noticed a small feeder stream a few yards away. It went under a highway just yards from the main river then turned into a cement bottomed culvert. As the tide came in the small stream filled up with fish and they really did almost make the water look solid with them.
Salmon stop feeding when they start their spawning run but they will hit bright colored lures out of instinct. On the first cast I hooked another six pound chum salmon and it really fought, making strong runs and pulling hard. I could feel my line bumping other fish as it ran but the line and the rod held up. This fish was much prettier, having just come into the fresh water to spawn but still had the hooked jaw of a spawning salmon.
I stood on the edge of that small creek and landed two more fish and lost several more. Some were foul hooked in the top fin by the little jig. If one did not hit it I could not reel it far without hooking one as my line went across the backs of all those fish. It was fun but none of the fish really jumped or made the sizzling runs I had read about as a kid.
The next day we went to Skagway and again I found a small stream full of fish. I caught one pretty pink salmon weighing about four pounds before time was up. The rod was still doing good after several fish.
A few days later we went out on a salmon charter. We trolled with downriggers in the bay near Sitka and we landed 10 nice Coho salmon. Since we were using downriggers and big flashers to attract the fish they really did not fight very good.
Our last day we were in Ketchikan and had several hours after getting off the ship before our flight. I went to a stream right in town and caught six pink salmon and lost many more. These fish fought like they were supposed to, jumping and making screaming runs across gravel bars.
I was amazed the rod held up through all this. I had the drag set very light on my reel but many times I had to put pressure on the spool to stop a run before the fish got into streamside brush. The rod often bent double during these fights. I never changed jigs, either. Every fish I hooked came on the same small crappie jig.
Catching salmon in Alaska was a dream come true. It was fun, but I never expected to do it with a Spiderman rod!