My son Michael did some research on Fall Kokanee fishing and was planning a trip to see if he could catch some of these colorful fish for some pictures. I was very impressed at all the research he had done to get ready for this trip. From location to lures, he was dialed in and ready to go. He was planning on taking one of his buddies the following morning. I did not want to barge in on his adventure, but secretly I was really wanting to go with him.
Sunday morning rolled around and he was getting all of his gear ready. I casually mentioned that if your buddy happens to back out on you I guess that I could go with you just to keep you company. Michael said ok and went about his business. About 30 minutes later, Michael said, “Hey Dad, my friend slept in, do you want to come with me?” I replied “Sure, I guess so” and was in the truck with my gear on and ready to go in about 2 seconds! Michael took a look at me and said, “hmmm, that was quick” . I gave him the confused Dad look and replied “What ?”. He just laughed and shook his head. Michael gave me the directions to the spot he had researched and we were off! A couple of hours later we arrived at a small creek where Kokanee were spawning
Here is a little background on Kokanee. Kokanee are a land locked Sockeye Salmon. Just like their salt water going brothers, Kokanee are prized for their red meat, and superior taste. On the grill or out of the smoker these little fish are great to eat. Sockeye live in the ocean and spawn back to the river of their birth, where their bodies eventually turn a bright red color with a green head. Kokanee live in a lake, and spawn back to the creek of their birth where they also turn a bright red color with a green head. Sockeye can get up to 10 pounds, Kokanee are typically much smaller, averaging about 15” and weighing a pound or two. Same fish, different environments. Kokanee are found throughout Washington and Oregon.
Now back to the fishing story. Our mission today was to get pictures of the Kokanee in their beautiful spawning colors. We would release all we caught back into the river so that they could continue their life ending journey. We walked down to the creek to see hundreds of red bodied Kokanee working their way up the creek. With the trees changing colors, a slight damp chill in the air and hundreds of Kokanee in the river it is a sight to behold, very, very cool.
We put our gear together and started casting to see if they would bite. Within in a couple of minutes Michael hooked a beautiful red Kokanee, landed it, took some pictures and released it back into the creek. I was still fumbling around, and watched as Michael landed two more. I finally was able to land one and the picture fest was on!! We were both fascinated by the sight of all these spawning fish, and were enjoying the whole scene, taking pics and videos of the sight. It was a spectacular day…… then the magic started.
As we were spectating the spawning ritual, I noticed a large splash across the creek. It was a splash big enough for me to realize that it did not come from a Kokanee. I pointed it out to Michael and he casted over to it. Within in 5 seconds his rod doubled over and a huge Rainbow Trout came flying out of the water. We both froze for what seemed like an eternity with our eyes and mouths wide open in disbelief. Luckily, Michael came to his senses and started to play the monster Trout.
From a far away and foggy distance I could hear Michael saying, “Dad, get the camera!” but I was still standing motionless - mouth wide open, processing what was happening. Michael then put some force behind his words and yelled: “DAD!!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING GET THE CAMERA!!” That was enough to shake me out of my fog and get the camera going.
Michael played the Trout like a pro - using an Eagle Claw Feather Light rod, he fought the fish for over 2 minutes before landing it safely along the shore. It measured 24” and was as fat as any trout I had ever seen! We took lots of pictures and released it safely back into the creek. We laughed and smiled and gave each other high fives as it swam back into its domain.
By this time. it was getting late and I had to catch a flight to Alaska that night, so we were getting ready to go. As we were packing up, Michael noticed another large splash across the creek and decided to take one last cast. He casted towards the area of the commotion, and instantly he hooked another huge Rainbow. This time we were both ready for it! The beautiful fish came flying out of the water and we realized that it was even bigger than the first one. I started taking pictures and Michael battled the giant with a soft and skillful touch that reminded me of Jordan Spieth putting to win the US Open at Chambers Bay in Tacoma. He maneuvered it off a submerged tree, withstood four strong runs and finally landed it safely along the shore where he cradled it with care and respect.
The fish measured 27”, and the coloration was simply beautiful. This fish was truly the fish of a lifetime. After taking as many pictures as possible, I told Michael that I would get it mounted for him if he wanted to keep it. Michael just looked at me as said, “no, I want to let it go.” And with that, Michael released it back into the water.
As the fish swam away, we looked at each other and starting laughing, asking ourselves “Did that really just happen?” It was as magical of a moment that I have ever experienced in all my fishing adventures, and one that I will never forget.
Thanks for reading.
© Bill Matthews Outdoors 2017