Photo: Lewis River (Vincent Louis/Shutterstock)
ON A BRISK OCTOBER day on the Chehalish River, the banks on either side are dressed in bright yellow leaves, and the water below is full of migrating coho salmon. Carl Burke, who has been fishing in Washington for longer than I’ve been alive, is spin-casting from a jet boat into the brush at the water’s edge where coho salmon like to hide.
I’ve hooked dozens of logs and branches already, each time imagining the tug to be a fish, yanking my rod with a jolt of adrenaline, only to realize my catch’s definite lifelessness. Finally, something feels different—it’s clear this is no rotting log. “Hook ’em, hook ’em!” Burke shouts as a silvery dorsal fin emerges from the water. Then he reaches down with the net and grabs the gorgeous fish, lifting it into the air where it thrashes wildly. “That’s a coho for you,” Burke says. “He’ll fight you like crazy.” After that we’re on a roll, and by the end of the day our boat is heavy with salmon cargo.
A week—and many salmon dinners—later I depart Anacortes for the San Juan Islands with seasoned guide Derek Floyd, owner and operator of Anglers Choice Charters (anglerschoicefishing.com). At Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island, a tried-and-true fishing spot, we set our lines, weighted to sink