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Tempting early summer salmon

Outdoor Living

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

James appeared at the kitchen door, rather red in the face and a touch breathless.
“I told you so,” he puffed, “Didn’t I tell you? The fish were holding up in the estuary after all, and that drop of rain brought them in, just as I thought it would. Come on, come and look.”
I picked up my fly rod. James gave a dubious look and shook his head. “There’s a drop of water and big fish in it. You’d want something stronger really.”
I wasn’t convinced. “Forty yards of fly line, 60 yards of backing – there’s no fish that’ll run all this out...”
We got to the river which, although crystal clear, was higher and more powerful than I had imagined. “Look,” James pointed excitedly. “Two of them, right there. And behind those there’s two more and, gaww, see that one!” A much larger fish swam slowly into view and took position alongside the others.
One of the smaller salmon flashed silver as it turned to intercept something in the current. “That one there? Four or five pounds, I’d say. But that big one has to be 15, if he’s an ounce. They’re all fresh, straight out of the sea. They’d take anything right now.”
I knew James was right, that at least one of these fish lying just off the main flow would probably take a fly the first time it was presented. I looked again at the surging current and wished I’d taken note and brought a stronger rod along. There was only one thing to do.
I moved ten paces upstream, flicked the line out and watched the fly cut through the surface, over the heads of the fish. On the second cast it sank six inches or so. “He’s seen it. He’s moving... he’s taken it!”
The excitement was too much, and I lifted the rod before feeling a pull, which in salmon fishing is a sure recipe for failure.
“What are you doing? You had him!” It was nearly too much for James, who almost fell from his rock with disappointment.
“If you’d only stay quiet and stop dancing around I could concentrate,” I told him. “Now, look and see, and tell me what happens.”
I cast again and let the flow of water carry the fly in an arc. James was quieter now. “They’ve seen it alright, and they want it, too. You can see them bristling. Try again.”
We tried again and again while fish moved through the pool. Some stopped for a while and those already there, including the big fellow, took their rest before swimming leisurely upstream to find more secure lodging. Several fish looked at the fly and even rose to inspect it closely, while others, near and far, flung themselves from the water, exuberant, I thought, at being home in their parent river.
I was on the point of giving up when there came a savage tug and a fish somersaulted away downstream. With the weight of that strong current behind it there was nothing I could do to check that first run, except watch as my reel emptied of line. When I held on too tightly the salmon let go and gained its freedom.
We would return later, I promised, and James could have this best spot, which he had graciously given up for me. Resigned to going home with an empty creel, I was reeling up when another fish attached itself to the hook. This one stuck. It would. As salmon go, it was a midget.
I was tempted to let it go but the thought of breakfast won out. Fresh salmon, peppered and grilled, under an early summer sun. Where, I ask, would you get it?