Here it comes…Salmon season. And here come the standard questions, the ones I get hit with just about every day now by both fishermen and non-fishermen alike. I see them coming like a deer jumping out of the ditch, and like the deer, I try to avoid them, but it’s no use. Everyone knows I fish. “Are you excited that salmon season is almost here?” “Do you go salmon fishing?” Do you want to go salmon fishing? I know some good spots where we won’t run into too many other people.” To the second and third questions my answers are just as standard as the questions. No, I don’t go salmon fishing. And no thank you, I don’t want to go salmon fishing. But to the first question, am I excited that salmon season is almost here? Yes, yes I am.
I don’t relate salmon season to fishing for salmon much at all, except for picturing anglers lined up shoulder to shoulder bickering for 3ft of bank and arguments over people not getting their lines out of the water in time when the call of fish on! is heard seconds before someone comes tugging and stumbling down the bank with a half rotten zombie of a fish blindly leading the way for no other reason than it’s a fish so it’s going to fight you, never mind the fact that it’s going to die either way, if not at your hands then on its own somewhere up stream. No, I relate salmon season to the changing of the leaves, to little brook trout up north coloring up for the spawn, and to the end of mowing the damn lawn.
To the people that don’t fish that know I’m a die-hard fly fisherman, it seems to shock them to find out that I don’t make the drive to the Salmon River every year like almost everyone else in the fishing universe within 300 miles. Hell, my brother has a job up there this season patrolling a well-known stretch of private property checking for badges indicating that anglers paid to be there. It’s less than an hour from home, and it’s all anyone is talking about right now. Except me. I’m talking about waters finally cooling off, about heading north and driving down seasonal dirt roads, about hopping from boulder to boulder once again like in the spring time, and about fish the length of my hand, maybe twice that at best. Call me crazy, but I’d rather chase brookies by myself or with a couple friends in the silence of the Adirondacks, rather than cruise a fishing access lot looking for a parking spot like a soccer mom at the grocery store. I’ve got good friends that live for salmon season, and I’m not knocking them, no sir, because I don’t bust my friends’ chops, no sir. I respect them.
I’d never tell them that setting up on the river banks to cast to hundreds of dying and half swimming, half rotting salmon was like setting up mouse traps in front of a cliff, trying to kill a bunch of lemmings before they jumped. Nope.
Photo credit- Deborah Curriere
I’d never tell them that the only thing that matched the wretched look of a once mighty fish now slowly moving upriver in a state of living decay like a zombie hoard against the current was the piles of trash that they tromped into the ground left by the other zombie hoard pursuing the first, missing the whole point of getting out there and enjoying the simpler things and the peace and quiet of a day on the water. Nope.
And I certainly wouldn’t ever explain to them that the waters up north during salmon season are practically void of human presence because everyone else is either on the Salmon River or taking advantage of some early hunting season, leaving it all to you, and you alone. Nope.
This year I’ll do the same as always. My salmon season will be a few trips north to thin blue lines on maps, maybe one or two that don’t show up on maps, and I’ll send my fly line looping across cool currents of tea colored streams, the line traveling horizontally above the water while leaves of red and purple fall vertically to the ground and crunch under foot or float downstream. There will be no trash, no fast food bags, no hook packaging, no coffee cups found, no evidence of man. And wild fish. No human put them there. They decided this would be their home. It was their decision. The first time I see brookies paired up in the stream will be the last time I cast, I leave them to their private matters and to the survival of their kind. When the reds appear on the stream bottoms my season is done, whether the state regulations say the season goes on or not. They’ve fought too hard to be there not to do anything less than let them be there. Then I’ll come back home and turn my attention to the smallmouth, the walleye, and the Pike for the rest of the salmon season. None of these fish swim around with half their face falling off like a villain out of a comic book, and the crowds that pursue them, while there, don’t seem half as intimidating. They also don’t normally get in fist fights that start with your standing in my spot. But Steelhead? Well, every year someone tries to get me to go, and every year my response is maybe. After the salmon crowds leave and the snow falls. Maybe. Maybe this is the year. Never can tell.
The only thing I know is salmon season is just about here, and if I lower the deck on the mower until there’s no more left to lower, any time now could be my last time mowing the damn lawn. The grass quits growing right about when the salmon runs start. More time to fish. The thought of that makes me happy. God I love salmon season.