Dark King Salmon, Orange Gold

Dark King Salmon, Orange Gold
Forgotten king wrested from a shallow throne.

Dark king salmon funnel into farm country. They're still there. Forgotten now. Slipping through a misty woodlot, appearing by the river. Nobody there. Listen for it. Ruckus. The tempest of beasts too large in a stream too small, fighting for position, fighting to survive where survival cannot be. Too warm, these farm-country streams. The eggs will hatch, but the progeny will die in the smallmouth regime, in the long, hot days of summer. Once upon a time, salmon may have reproduced here. Before the axes fell, and before the warning influence of farms sprawled across the land, many of these streams held trout that ran to the big water. Speckled ones. Already forgotten before you were born.

Fly box. Any streamer with a green back this year. Stout hook. Stout, 17-pound leader. An 8W rod. Maybe a 10, if the flies are large. Look for her. The brightest one. The males are all pain and scars. They mill about your feet, dark shadows of themselves. The silver rulers of the Big Lake, brought to this place, where bright orange oak leaves swirl on the currents. They will never feed in the aquamarine shadows of swells again.

Something spooks them. The water boils as they bang painfully into your shins and knees. They settle. Circle. Reposition. You wait.

There! A bright flash. A white belly turns up. A powerful tail throws gravel. Three feet below her a male closes his kype around the peduncle of a precocious king, snaps his head and flings the intruder through the air. No country for young kings.

She makes her bed. The suitors jostle for position. The fly is placed 10 feet upstream and a few feet beyond the new redd. It swings past a couple feet short. Perfect. Strip 6 inches. Punch another cast. She'll take it on the 4th drift. Maybe the fifth. Ok, sixth. A powerful surge. Panic reigns in the shallow kingdom. A maelstrom of kings, fleeing in all directions.

Stumble on a rock. Rod rises into a maple. She shreds it out. Leaves fall on the receding line. Backing appears. But she can't last. Her best days are behind her. She'll tire soon. Stuffed into my waders, I find a plastic bag. Here she comes. Haul her to the long, sweeping, sweetgrass draped in the flow and slide her long torso up, onto the bank. A quick massage and the eggs fly into the waiting plastic. Orange gold. Enough for half a winter. One more and leave them alone. Their efforts wasted on procreation, but appreciated none the less. Long shadows in the yellow wood. Ruckus in the lonely, darkening stream. The machinations of forgotten kings.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Pike & Muskie

Best Drive-To Pike Waters

Gord Pyzer

Some of Canada's best pike waters are within driving distance.


The Lowdown on Walleye Hardbaits

Steve Ryan - May 28, 2019

The range of walleye hardbaits encompasses multiple categories and a dizzying number of lures.


Navionics adds SonarChart Shading to its Platinum+ and HotMaps Platinum cartography

In-Fisherman - April 29, 2019

Navionics adds SonarChart Shading and HotMaps Platinum.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

Sight Fishing Carp

The In-Fisherman staff slips into stealth mode sight tactics for barrel-shaped carp.

What's New from Cummings Nets?

There's more than meets the eye with new Cummings Nets Red Line. Find out what. With Mike Powell of Cummings and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...


The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Stories

More Other Fish

Other Fish

Alligator Gar: North America's Greatest Sportfish

Steve Ryan - April 02, 2019

Alligator gar are the largest scaled freshwater fish in North America.

Other Fish

Gar Fishing Methods and Tips

John Gaulke - January 14, 2016

Here's some excellent material on fishing for gar.

Other Fish

Ice Fishing Whitefish

Gord Pyzer - December 03, 2015

Whitefish are one of the biggest, hardest-fighting, most plentiful, nutritious, and delicious....

See More Other Fish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.