In past years I have always looked forward to the coming of September and the beginning of salmon season.
For many years I have packed up my gear and headed to the Lower Mainland to meet up with my old friend and salmon fishing partner Cory.
We have cast many a line together. However, this year is different.
Year after year, season after season, I have always looked forward to just standing there on the banks of the river, breathing in the cool crisp morning air and enjoying that sense of camaraderie that comes with casting a line with fellow anglers — sharing with them the experience that so many other anglers have shared before us.
I’ve always felt a certain connection to the past when I’m standing there on the river.
With each new season, with each run and riffle, each cast there has always been a certain amount of expectation, if not trepidation.
But, like I said, this year something is different. The salmon are simply not there the way they used to be.
Over the years I have always been able to rationalize my lack of success in catching salmon by convincing myself that each cast made without a strike, was but a prelude to the moment when I would feel that sudden, heart-stopping bump on the end of my line.
It wasn’t that I haven’t put in the hours. Nor was it ever really a matter of not knowing what I was doing.
It’s just that the salmon didn’t seem to be passing through on the particular days that I was fishing.
More often than not, the salmon run had apparently just gone through a few days before we got there, or, were still holding further upstream and hadn’t started coming down.
Then there were the years when they moved right on by without even stopping long enough to say hello.
So many times we seem to have just missed them.
Salmon fishing seems to have become sort of a hit and miss proposition at best. That’s the way it is. I don’t mind.
I’ve caught my share of salmon and I’ve enjoyed my time on the river even when I didn’t catch so much as a cold.
The thing is, I remember not all that long ago when the salmon were stacked up like cord wood in some of the rivers.
I know that when fall run salmon are on there way to the spawning grounds, they are not actively feeding.
I also know that when and if they do hit, it is more often out of aggression than anything else.
The very fact that half a dozen or more anglers, in relatively close proximity to each other along a river bank, can cast for hours without so much as a single strike among them, while the fish are swimming around right in front of them, is a pretty clear indication of just how little interest salmon have in eating anything.
If nothing else, standing on the banks of a river casting for salmon has always given me an opportunity to think about things.
Standing there, one simply cannot help but think about the salmon’s eternal struggle for survival as a species.
Especially when you think about them swimming upstream against so many barriers, against such odds, in order to make it to their spawning grounds.
Last year when Cory and I were fishing we both decided that it would be our last season for sockeye salmon.
We both agreed that maybe by not fishing for the ever-dwindling numbers of sockeye we could be part for the solution instead of part of the problem.
It’s not just the natural obstacles to survival that the salmon are facing.
Everything from global warming and pollution to over fishing and poaching seems to be ganging up on the poor salmon.
It should be obvious to everyone involved that the commercial, First Nations and sport fisheries must all start curtailing their activity on the water before it’s too late.
I mean, it’s not just the sockeye that are in trouble, many of the other salmon species are in trouble. Not to mention the wild steelhead populations. Never mind the halibut as well as other salt-water species.
I think this year I’m going to spend more time fishing for trout in some of our stocked waters.
Maybe Cory could come here and we could fish for some of the huge carp that are in Shuswap Lake.
Yes, things are going to change.
James Murray is an avid outdoors enthusiast and a former photographer with the Salmon Arrm Observer.