It’s only taken two summers in Alaska, but last night I finally pulled it off. I finally yanked a whale out of that river we call the Klutina.

I’ve been very hesitant to buy the non-resident licenses and tags for kings this year, since the run has been reportedly so poor. But, last night I decided was as good as any I would get this season, so I pulled the trigger. Lauren and Gakona Josh met up with me in Copper Center, and we hit the river around 6 p.m.

Didn’t take more than 15 minutes for Lauren to hook her first big’un. It gave her a might fight, and she landed it about 10 minutes later. Purdy good first sign. 15 minutes, 1 hit, 1 fish landed, 1 happy girl.

Josh hooked the next two, both between 25 and 35 pounds. Meanwhile, I fished downriver a little bit and kept getting ghost strikes, where I was sure I was getting hits, while everyone would just laugh at me. Finally, after 2 hours, the big one hit.

Pretty sure I set that hook hard enough I could’ve sent that fish into orbit if it weren’t for the swift current. Straight away, that sucker took me for a big run, and I lost my balance, and had to go in deeper to stay upright, and ended up filling my boots up with water. My drag was set way too loose, and I couldn’t get the dude to stop running.

Fortunately, little Josh threw his pole down on the banks and came to the rescue, tightening the drag and helping me get it back under control. I made some decent progress and brought him back in to about 30 feet, only for him to take another wild run. Probably payed out 50 feet on the second run, and I went in over my boots AGAIN. I was sure the beast was 50 pounds or more. His second run took him over a rapid, and we were certain he wasn’t coming back up.

I decided I needed some more leverage, so I tried to make my way back up on to the shore, and after a few more minutes I was able to get him coming back to me. The big fella did a couple tailstands on the final pull in, and we could tell he was gonna be a keeper, with some beautiful color to him. Just when I thought I had him in the net, the handle on my reel broke clean in half. I couldn’t reel anymore without some serious help, so we ended up tag teaming it. I held the pole up, and Josh used two hands to spin the reel to get him closer.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of warfare, I was able to flip him over into the net, just as the fetcher spit the hook. Turns out, the hook had nearly been straightened all the way back out, and we were just a few seconds away from landing him.

I’m sure the battle seemed much more epic in my own mind than it really was, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t the biggest battle I’ll ever wage again with a fish.