A Salute To The One That Got Away
By: Ken Enns

On that drizzly, misty September day, R.D. Berger and I were surprised to find no other boats in the Tyee Pool. Time and tradition awaited us in that marvelous holding water just south of the mighty Campbell River’s mouth. And, we would have it all to ourselves.

Sharpening the mood was the fact that R.D. was rowing a Tyee boat built by Ed Painter in 1951, a boat he had originally built for his brother Joe (Sr.).

R.D. wore his southeaster hat, and our motor was tilted out of the water. We dropped the Gibbs #8 Stewart Spoon, going out 12 two-foot pulls to a 3 oz. trip weight, then dropped it another 16 pulls.

The spoon started to work in that wonderful rhythmic throbbing and a mixture of fresh and mature fish were rolling around us. We knew we had a great chance to hook a fish and, as if in answer, a Chinook grabbed the spoon, and darted toward us. I struck it instantly, catching the fish at the top of my swing with my 8’ custom Sage rod.

It happened so quickly that R.D. skipped an oar, popping it out of the socket. The boat was momentarily no help in keeping the Chinook at bay. I was on my own and reeling and reeling as fast as I could. I could just feel the tip of the graphite rod tingling. I knew it was still on. Then all of a sudden this bright five-year-old Chinook, that looked around 40 – 45 lbs, jumped clear out of the water. It was about 20 feet behind the boat, shaking its head side to side with the spoon in its jaw. No sooner did it hit back in the water, than it continued on its maddening hari-kari like drive towards us.

Despite our best efforts, it seemed like it would ram into the boat. But only feet away it turned and screamed off 20 lb line from my Hardy 3 ¾ ” Sovereign. It took a huge, seemingly endless, run along the surface, south toward the lighthouse. It made its first stop, then turned and started swimming parallel to us. R.D. and I howled with a mixture of relief, awe and the thrill of the battle.

It had taken a lot of line, but mercifully there was still not another boat to be seen. The battle was pure and poetic. We had avoided disaster on its first run. We had checked and marked its second run. Instinctively we knew the Tyee had spent a good part of its explosive energy in those first few minutes. It was now simply a matter of paying attention, doing what we had done hundreds of times before, and the fish would be ours.

Calm resolve took over from the frantic, uncontrolled feeling of moments before. The Tyee slowly swam sideways, not taking any line, as if it were measuring us. We knew at any time all hell could break out and, despite our confidence, there was an element of trepidation coursing through our very beings.

It was like the lull before the storm. The oars creaked quietly and the ocean and sky seemed to melt together in a state of electric clarity. Every nuance of the big fish, every stroke of its huge tail, sent signals coursing through the line, onto the rod and into my hands and arms.

Then the line went slack and the Tyee was gone. The fish had succeeded in loosing the barbless hook from its jaws.

In that instant in an angler’s life, there is an emotion that is yet to be described in the annals of human physiology. There is remorse, yes, anger too in various levels depending on the angler. But above all, in the Tyee Pool and fishing under Tyee regulations, there is an elation – a joyous acknowledgement that all transpired the way it should, the way that fishing should be.

In that instant there was little remorse. Instead we both turned to each other hooting and hollering, while shaking each others hands. In a way we were saluting ourselves but, more importantly, we were saluting the great Tyee.

The Tyee Club of British Columbia, Fishing’s Ultimate Challenge!