I was first introduced into salmon fishing back in January of 2013 when I tagged along on a trip to the Hurunui River.With five of us on the trip and one quad bike between us, we crammed onto the quadie and managed to head down to the mouth of the river in two shuttles.
The first shuttle load was dropped off at the top of the tidal lagoon, hoping to catch salmon that had entered the river and were holding up in the deeper water. The second shuttle (which I was a part of), was dropped off about 100m from the river mouth where a 15 angler strong pack stood, all hoping to strike a silver bullet. As I unloaded my gear from the quadie and started rigging up, my girlfriend’s Dad grabbed his already setup gear and started heading towards the pack to try his luck. I had barely put the line through the eyes of my rod when over my shoulder I hear something along the lines of “Bryn…! Fish on!”. Being the green salmon angler I was I had no idea what to expect. From the experience I have now, looking back, you can almost guarantee that a casual cast out to sea on the way to the mouth may pick up the odd kahawai (a common bycatch whilst targeting salmon), but this did not turn out to be the case.
I watched on as he fought this fish, pulling his rod tip down and swimming hard to the bottom. After around 10 minutes I got my first glimpse of a wild sea run salmon. The waves that were rolling on to the steep pebbly shore had a habit of rising up, and then dumping down – a characteristic wave of many of the rocky beaches along the East Coast of the South Island. On one of these waves, a huge slab of silver swam horizontal to the coastline as the wave started to rise up. It was then that we knew a silver bullet had been hooked.
As the salmon was hauled up onto the beach, a more experienced salmon fisherman who was in the area came down and tailed the salmon, grabbing it and running it up above the high tide line securing the catch. What lay on the beach was the most stunning fish, 22lb of wild king salmon from one of the most spectacular braided rivers in North Canterbury. First cast of the day too the cheeky bugger!
The rest of the trip rendered fruitless aside from a few kahawai that were caught as a work up of bait fish swam past close to shore making easy pickings. It didn’t matter however as the events that had taken place before I’d even rigged my gear up that day, sparked a unique passion and drive that takes me back onto the braided rivers every year during the salmon season in the hope of catching silver bullets.
It took me another 2 years before I managed to land my own silver bullet, setting the alarm for 3:30am and making the drive up to the river for first light. As I reeled my lure through a school of kahawai out at sea, something hit it and swam straight to the bottom. Although I expected to see the fish jump in the air (something kahawai notoriously do and salmon seldom do), this fish was fighting differently from the kahawai I had caught previously that morning. Again the waves rose up and I saw the slab of silver I had attached to the end of my line. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in and I realized that all the early mornings and casts were on the verge of paying off. The salmon swam from the sea up the gut of the river, utilizing the current and putting more strain on my line. A fellow angler who was watching the event unfold came over and once the salmon was on the shore of the river bank, tailed the fish to safety making sure the fish was well and truly caught.
It took a few minutes to calm down and the majority of photos taken that day were understandably shaky. Although only weighing 12lb and was nothing compared to the horse of a fish that had sparked my interest 2 years prior, it was a wild king salmon and one that I could take home myself and put on the table for the family to enjoy… It really doesn’t get any better than that!