On a fishing trip to British Columbia’s Kispiox River several years ago Danny Cook, Dave Vedder and Greg Nylander were fishing a pool that had already produced several nice steelhead. Nylander cast a silver 2/5 ounce BC Steel Spoon into the head of the run and felt a solid grab. He set the hook into a steelhead. Not just any steelhead, mind you, but a steelhead of massive proportions.
“Greg hooked into this one fish and it jumps out of the water,” recalls Cook, who shared the story with Salmon & Steelhead Journal. “And Dave yells ‘now that is a big fish’. It probably cart-wheeled out of the water three or four times before it ran upstream where it just sulked in the hole.”
Nylander, who has fished the Kispiox every year since he returned home from the Vietnam War, played the fish hoping to tire it. Cook was waiting patiently with the net, and Vedder waited with his camera. “Trying to pull a fish like that out of the current is tough and Greg was doing everything he could to get it where I could net it.”
That’s about the time the steelhead decided to head for less disturbed water.
“Finally after this awesome fight it decides to go down to the next run and we have to chase it,” says Cook. “It funnels through a chute and into the next run where it sits in a nice boily pool. It basically becomes a game of tug of war with this big fish.”
Cook recalls seeing the steelhead in the river and he confirms it’s a 30-pounder. He also noticed it had a distinct scar on the left side of its body.
“It’s just out of my reach to get it in the bag, but I’m waiting for a good time to net it. I was being pretty careful because you don’t want to be the guy to goof it up and knock off someone’s prize fish. I probably should’ve taken a swipe at it but I didn’t.”
Cook saw that the hook was barely hanging in the mouth of the steelhead. “That’s when I see it pull free and the fish just moseys off back into the main current. I was sick and Greg lets out a big scream. After that no one says a thing for a while. We’re all distraught and kind of numb at what just happened.”
After talking about the what-ifs, the how-comes and what they could’ve done different the three of them make their way back up to the original pool. That’s when Cook prompts Nylander to catch it again.
“We we’re walking back up along the bank and I said to Greg, ‘how many times have we seen it where we have caught the same fish twice.’ Greg and Dave kind of pooh poohed the idea, but I know it happens. It’s happened to me before.”
About that time Nylander, a retired fire chief from Everett, Wash., makes a cast into the same hole, and hooks up immediately. It showed signs of a big steelhead, like the fish Nyland just hooked. “It’s fighting really hard and it’s not acting like a fish that was just hooked. I mean it’s fighting like a fresh fish. The whole time I’m asking Greg if he thinks it’s the same fish, and of course he doesn’t know. He’s just concentrating on fighting the fish making sure he doesn’t lose it.”
Eventually the fish went downriver, through the same chute and settled into the same hole where they watched it swim away 15 minutes before. Again, Cook is ready with the net and Vedder is waiting with his camera. And as luck would have it, Cook was able to net the steelhead.
“It had a scar on its left side that you couldn’t miss. There was no mistaking that it was the same fish. I couldn’t believe it. I put it in the net and the rest is history!”
Before releasing it, they put a tape to it. It was 44 inches long and 24 ½ inches in girth. And of course, Vedder was able to capture the moment with his camera. “The Skeena weight formula puts it at 34 or 35 pounds. Those Skeena fish are broad and wide. Certainly, looking at the fish, and Greg holding it, I certainly can believe that.”
Photo Courtesy Dave Vedder
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