Salmon Watching

There are fall days where you look for spots where the sun is shining because the shade is full of cold. You wear wool socks and fleece pants under your waders. No long underwear yet because whileit's cold it’s not steelhead cold. There is no ice forming in the guides and the fly line is still soft and gentle in your ungloved hand. 

The rains fell and the river rose. The salmon start their run to reproduction and death. In areas of Michigan the water is clear, cold and free from the silt. The eggs are laid in small redds and fertilized. Male and female salmon throw themselves in the air. Leaves give up their grip and float like small kites into the flowing water. 

My fly line is still supple and easily shoots through the guides. A salmon jumps a few feet away from me. A small pod of fish swim upstream. A kingfisher makes a dive into the water and pops out with a small minnow wiggling in its beak. I move into a pool of warm sun. 

The salmon jumps. I cast above the growing rings and watch the line, waiting for any sign of a take, waiting, watching, and looking for a twitch in the line. It drifts and slides down the current and I cast again. I cast again and again covering water with each drift. 

The salmon jumps. 

I repeat the drill.

I reel up my line and find a sunny spot on the bank.

The salmon jumps.

The current carries gold and yellow leaves, like small boats, to the lake. They pile and crash into one another forming small marinas of color. 

The salmon jumps. 

The Kingfisher makes another dive and comes up with an empty beak. 

I step into the water and head downstream. 

There is a large pool just past the bend. The shadow of the railroad bridge bends across the pool, breaking into bits where the sun has driven past the leaves.  A salmon leaves the water and appears to fall back on itself. Then another jumps and another. 

I cast to indifferent fish. 

As if this were a dance, the fish jump as if in rhythm. One just out of reach, one within range. I watch and wonder about all of this, an ocean fish, now bred for the lake, a fish that created an industry of charter boats, downriggers and tinsel flies.  

I have fished for them in the ocean, along the pacific coast. They made your line sing out, smelled of the sea, and made you work for them. My mind wanders back to when I was young and lived in Seattle.  We’d keep the fish we caught, my father and I. When we got home we’d clean and plank them. When done, they’d taste of the ocean and a touch of lemon. 

I reel up my line and head for the car. I can hear them in the pool behind me. They splash and jump and I am reminded of the times I spent fishing with my father.  

A salmon clears the air. 


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