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I had my drag set to where it was very difficult to strip line by hand.
That is too tight.
For salmon (IMHO) you should be using a levelwind reel.
A giant salmon-size spinning reel is awkward for fighting salmon.

You have a more powerful drag with a levelwind.
And you can set it at a moderate level and then use your thumb to supplement your drag setting.
Keep in mind, that with salmon (or steelhead), you can't really do much with them for the first few minutes except set hook and don't make a fish-fighting mistake.

Also keep in mind that river salmon will "sulk", meaning that they will sometimes auger into the deepest part of the pool and sulk.
This is where Mr. Big is trying to punch you in the mouth and get away.
You have to keep steady, relentless, upward pressure on him no matter how much it hurts.
And in a big fight, it does hurt. Your forearms will be crying for their mothers.

While keeping steady, upward pressure on him, keep your rod tip "quiet" and not flailing around.
If you go all rookie with your rod tip it will make him headshake.

Eventually you will feel him "come up" a bit.
This is where you pick up line and quietly get it back on the reel without ever letting it go slack during your "lift up - reel down" sequence.
Getting 3 feet back on the reel is a small victory during a big fishfight.

When you get him in shallow water for the first time he will often "blast out" and you will have to fight him all over again. With tired arms you want the fight to be over and if you try to stop the blast out, you can break him off.
Sometimes they'll blast out several times and you just have to weather the storm.

When he lays over on his side, he's done.
Get him gliding in and keep him gliding in.
They don't have much power when they are on their side, so keep that head coming toward to bank.
If you don't have a net and it's a keeper, your partner should know how to "grab the motor".
That's the tail and your partner should grab the "wrist" of the tail while pushing him up on the bank.
All this while you continue leading him to the bank.

Turn him upright and thump him on the mind with a rock or decent size stick.

A fish to be released should never be dragged over rocks and up onto the bank.

Salmon fishing in small rivers is good, clean fun.

Good luck
 
Dont be afraid of longer, softer tipped rods. A longer rod with a more parabolic action will help protect your leader and will allow you to move line quickly to keep the line tight without ripping hooks loose. I’m not talking noodle rods, but not a broomstick.

I’m talking 8’6” at a minimum, and as long as 11’6” on big water. One of my favorite was to fish for kings on the cowlitz is to have nothing but a swivel, 3 foot leader, and a 3/0 hook tied with an egg loop, and a golfball glob of cured eggs. Using an 11’6” rod, I can sling that a long ways to fish laying in the pool below the dam.
 
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solv3nt

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That is too tight.
For salmon (IMHO) you should be using a levelwind reel.
A giant salmon-size spinning reel is awkward for fighting salmon.

You have a more powerful drag with a levelwind.
And you can set it at a moderate level and then use your thumb to supplement your drag setting.
Keep in mind, that with salmon (or steelhead), you can't really do much with them for the first few minutes except set hook and don't make a fish-fighting mistake.

Also keep in mind that river salmon will "sulk", meaning that they will sometimes auger into the deepest part of the pool and sulk.
This is where Mr. Big is trying to punch you in the mouth and get away.
You have to keep steady, relentless, upward pressure on him no matter how much it hurts.
And in a big fight, it does hurt. Your forearms will be crying for their mothers.

While keeping steady, upward pressure on him, keep your rod tip "quiet" and not flailing around.
If you go all rookie with your rod tip it will make him headshake.

Eventually you will feel him "come up" a bit.
This is where you pick up line and quietly get it back on the reel without ever letting it go slack during your "lift up - reel down" sequence.
Getting 3 feet back on the reel is a small victory during a big fishfight.

When you get him in shallow water for the first time he will often "blast out" and you will have to fight him all over again. With tired arms you want the fight to be over and if you try to stop the blast out, you can break him off.
Sometimes they'll blast out several times and you just have to weather the storm.

When he lays over on his side, he's done.
Get him gliding in and keep him gliding in.
They don't have much power when they are on their side, so keep that head coming toward to bank.
If you don't have a net and it's a keeper, your partner should know how to "grab the motor".
That's the tail and your partner should grab the "wrist" of the tail while pushing him up on the bank.
All this while you continue leading him to the bank.

Turn him upright and thump him on the mind with a rock or decent size stick.

A fish to be released should never be dragged over rocks and up onto the bank.

Salmon fishing in small rivers is good, clean fun.

Good luck
Thanks for the tips! I'm headed out for a few hours tomorrow, I'll throw up pictures when I get one! I did buy a big, fish friendly net since native Coho are verboten.
 
I was using #4 single hooks for my corky rig, and the spinner is a treble. I'm running 15# mono, and I haven't had any problems feeling the hit or getting the initial hookup. It's just that I've lost each one.
#4 is very small (too small) for Chinook. I'll use a #4 Owner Cutting Point for steelhead though.
I would say that you need to be more like 1/0 or 2/0 for Chinook.

I use 10# P-Line for steelhead and 25# Maxima (old school) Chameleon for Chinook. Chinook are not leader-shy.
For steelhead I need to make a super long cast where I fish and 10# is about as thick as I want to go.
I have a rod that will protect it, but if I hook a Chinook I'll be fighting fish for a looong time.

I don't need a long cast for Chinook and 25# Maxima is good to have if he rock-wraps you.
Maxima Chameleon is a stiff, hard surface line that ties a beautiful knot.
Fly fisherman like it for hand-tied leaders because the knots are so clean and it has that stiffness they want.
Paging @Stomper
I've been in some fights to where that 25# is "singing" (right to to point of breaking).

You can land a big Chinook in fast water with 15# but it will take a long, mistake-free time.
 
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solv3nt

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#4 is very small (too small) for Chinook. I'll use a #4 Owner Cutting Point for steelhead though.
I would say that you need to be more like 1/0 or 2/0 for Chinook.

I use 10# P-Line for steelhead and 25# Maxima (old school) Chameleon for Chinook. Chinook are not leader-shy.
For steelhead I need to make a super long cast where I fish and 10# is about as thick as I want to go.
I have a rod that will protect it, but if I hook a Chinook I'll be fighting fish for a looong time.

I don't need a long cast for Chinook and 25# Maxima is good to have if he rock-wraps you.
Maxima Chameleon is a stiff, hard surface line that ties a beautiful knot.
Fly fisherman like it for hand-tied leaders because the knots are so clean and it has that stiffness they want.
Paging @Stomper
I've been in some fights to where that 25# is "singing" (right to to point of breaking).

You can land a big Chinook in fast water with 15# but it will take a long, mistake-free time.
Oops, I lied. I'm rocking #1 hooks. Funny story, I'm really a trout fly guy, and I grew up with a spinning reel. When I started trying to catch a salmon last year, I didn't like my dad's old rod, so I bought a new one. Apparently I bought a casting rod.

I didn't figure out the difference until someone on the river pointed it out. Then I googled it. It turns out I bought the wrong rod. So rather than losing out on $75, I doubled down and bought a casting reel to go with it.

Long story short, I can't figure out how to cast the thing without a crows nest. I should take it out in a field and practice for a few hours.
 
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Oops, I lied. I'm rocking #1 hooks. Funny story, I'm really a trout fly guy, and I grew up with a spinning reel. When I started trying to catch a salmon last year, I didn't like my dad's old rod, so I bought a new one. Apparently I bought a casting rod.

I didn't figure out the difference until someone on the river pointed it out. Then I googled it. It turns out I bought the wrong rod. So rather than losing out on $75, I doubled down and bought a casting reel to go with it.

Long story short, I can't figure out how to cast the thing without a crows nest. I should take just go out in a field and practice for a few hours.
Crow's nest LOL (that's on a ship)
Bird's nest is what's happening to your reel.

"Hey solv3nt, why are all those birds circling you ?" LOL

Learn how to adjust the cast control on your reel.
Use heavier baits to start with and work your way lighter.
It's all about the education of your thumb. You have to teach your thumb to be a smart thumb.

In reality, your thumb is always in contact with the spool. It just varies in how much pressure is being applied.
With a heavy braking adjustment, you could conceivably lift your thumb, but your casting distance will be crap.
That's where the education comes in.
There are "parts of the cast" where your thumb is just barely touching the spool.
The NASCAR rule applies here.....NEVER LIFT !

Two biggest rookie mistakes...
1) Taking the thumb completely off of the spool
2) Failure to stop the spool at the moment of touch down.

I think it took me 3 months of off and on fishing to get somewhat comfortable with a baitcaster (levelwind).
Now all my cast control is turned off and I fish with a modified direct drive Curado.
 
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3MTA3

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Oops, I lied. I'm rocking #1 hooks. Funny story, I'm really a trout fly guy, and I grew up with a spinning reel. When I started trying to catch a salmon last year, I didn't like my dad's old rod, so I bought a new one. Apparently I bought a casting rod.

I didn't figure out the difference until someone on the river pointed it out. Then I googled it. It turns out I bought the wrong rod. So rather than losing out on $75, I doubled down and bought a casting reel to go with it.

Long story short, I can't figure out how to cast the thing without a crows nest. I should take it out in a field and practice for a few hours.
That's how I learned and that was in the days before magnets or even sliding weights to control backlash. I used a weight encased in a rubber ball. Start with short casts and work your way out. I didn't get good over night and likely you won't either. Just hang in there and practice a bit every day if you can.

Get a spare reel or two to take with you when you fish, so I can change to a fresh one and work on the bird's nest later at home.

IMO, you didn't buy the wrong style of rod for fish like steelhead and salmon, you were using the wrong reel style. Spinning reels not only twist your line, their drags suck compared to a good level wind.

Speaking of that drag system, take it apart and give it maintenance every once in a while and keep it smoooooth.
 

3MTA3

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That's how I learned and that was in the days before magnets or even sliding weights to control backlash. I used a weight encased in a rubber ball. Start with short casts and work your way out. I didn't get good over night and likely you won't either. Just hang in there and practice a bit every day if you can.

Get a spare reel or two to take with you when you fish, so I can change to a fresh one and work on the bird's nest later at home.

IMO, you didn't buy the wrong style of rod for fish like steelhead and salmon, you were using the wrong reel style. Spinning reels not only twist your line, their drags suck compared to a good level wind.

Speaking of that drag system, take it apart and give it maintenance every once in a while and keep it smoooooth.
Wanted to add a bit about the weight I used to practice casting - the rubber made it less likely to hang up in the undergrowth and it was really visible, so I knew where it was going. Basically, I practiced backlash control, but also placement. The rubber weight also would bounce after it landed, so if I somehow lost track of it I could still spot where it hit.

Another point was that I learned to cast right and left handed. There are some situations where it's useful.
 

jbett98

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I was taught to get everything setup with the bait and any weights being used and then hold the rod at arms length straight out at chest height above the water and then adjust the tension knob on the side of the spool shaft as you release the spool and watch it free spool till the bait rig touches the water.
The spool should come to a light stop right as it hits the water.
As you cast out over the water, you barely have to think about how much thumb pressure you need to make the spool stop as it hits the water and stop the reel from free spooling.
I always used a left handed bait casting reel, as I'm right handed, that way I didn't have to switch hands to retrieve.
 

solv3nt

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I hooked a monster this morning, but he wrapped around a rock and got free.
It was my fault. I am saw my line downstream, and saw the fish jump upstream. I decided to walk downstream, but thought it wise to bring the net. He wiggled free when I was was messing around trying to grab the net.

He hit a pink blue fox spinner in the second or third cast after switching from a corky. I've got some salmon roe that I'll try later when it arrives this week.
 

3MTA3

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It was my fault. I am saw my line downstream, and saw the fish jump upstream. I decided to walk downstream, but thought it wise to bring the net. He wiggled free when I was was messing around trying to grab the net.

He hit a pink blue fox spinner in the second or third cast after switching from a corky. I've got some salmon roe that I'll try later when it arrives this week.
Sand shrimp worked well in the waters I used to fish.
 
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