Later that day I was reminded in a much more dramatic way of the difference between a king salmon and steelhead. My 8 weight rod shattered as I stupidly tried to pull a foul-hooked king to the net rather than simply breaking the line.
Over the next few days I'd break off more than my share of salmon (but not any more fly rods) and I landed a few too. The run was still in the early stages on the Marquette, but there were enough monsters around to keep our group entertained. One giant male leaped out of the Marquette and rose above my head. Michael Jordan would have been jealous of his leaping prowess. Salmon are propelled by powerful tails that send reels screaming. When their broad tail cuts through the cool air while in mid-leap it can sound as if a mallard is taking off nearby. However, these fish cannot fly. They invariably fall back into the river, often with splash and audio of a young boy's belly flop.
Salmon are much larger than steelhead, but they lack the grace and beauty of the slabs of silver. Even the fresh salmon begin to darken by the time they reach the stretch of the Marquette we were fishing. Their mad rush to spawn before death gives salmon fishing a grim feeling that is never present while chasing chrome. I'm sure there will be times this fall that I will miss the size and might of the king, but I am ready to resume my steel pursuit.