A recent battle with a king hooked on a bobber and egg rig reminded me of the first Kenai king I hooked and landed on my own. Here's a piece I wrote shortly after that fight.
It's 10:15 in the evening on the Kenai River.
Blue skies dominate above. A warm peach gold light cast by the setting sun hangs on the very tops of the trees across the river and on the horizon, rolling magenta clouds travel out to sea through the solstice night.
With my responsibilities done, I decide to take a few swings with a bobber and egg rig through the hole out front and see if anyone's home.
I've managed to coax a few strikes in the last few evenings, but nothing chomped hard enough to play for more than a second or two.
I don't expect to do anything different tonight than I've done the past few; I'll watch a few nice kings roll, get excited for a while, then, slowly lose interest and start thinking about sleep.
After about five minutes and a few floats without so much as a suspicious nudge, I've already begun to fade and stop paying attention.
It's as if the fish have been watching to see when I'd lose my focus, that it happens ... WHAM!
My rod bows, I set the hook.
For a second nothing happens.
I think I just caught myself a piece of real estate.
In an instant though, the line cuts the water, chasing a furious 30-pound hen throttling down river.
She banks a sharp 180, slamming her tail on the surface, and heads back up. She does this, back and forth several times.
There's no boat to chase her down, and for a moment I think of yelling; someone is bound to hear.
Forget it -- this is my battle, this is my fish, the hook is in both of us.
Changing tact, she comes to the surface, shaking her head wildly, she looks right at me as if to size me up, before charging directly at me.
I reel at mach speed and she comes within five feet, before rolling another 180 and screaming line back off, slapping a spray of cold snow melt at me.
Back and forth she does this, over and over.
I grab the net and jump in the icy water wearing only shorts and sandals, though I really don't notice.
It's been close to five minutes now, and the fish is tiring.
Slowly I reel, keeping tension on the delicate connection between us while crooking the awkward net under my shoulder.
Every 10 seconds she catches her wind and runs out a few feet of line.
By the time I'm up to my knees the water is turbid around my legs, and I'm ready to make the strike.
The line goes slack for a second and I pull the rod back, I see a flash of her white underbelly in the murk as she attempts to make another roll.
The net nearly flies from my hand on a will of its own and I feel, as I scoop it back, the heavy weight of victory.
The hen, sensing the closeness of the shore, begins to struggle as I rush it through the water back to shore. In only a few feet of water her thrashing nearly drenches me, but I don't care.
Many anglers spend their whole lives dreaming of fight I've just had, and in the cool night air, I feel something of an Alaskan vindication.
Dante Petri is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. Submit photos, comments, recipes and fish stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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