We have to do what we can to pro­tect our sal­mon

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - Trevor Soo­ley Par­adise

My fa­ther is a hard­core sal­mon fish­er­man and my child­hood sum­mers were spent on the river. Our fam­ily an­them was the coun­try song by Wil­lie Nel­son, “On the Road Again.”

We’d spend half the sum­mer in can­vas tents criss­cross­ing huge swaths of the prov­ince. I didn’t do much fish­ing in those days, I just didn’t have the bug back then.

I de­cided to pick up sal­mon fish­ing again about 15 years ago, and on the first day my fa­ther perched me on a boul­der and pointed out a small pool a few yards out. As he moved on up­stream, I made my first flick and as soon as my fly hit the wa­ter - fish on! I only had him on for a mo­ment. He jumped, twisted, popped out the hook and was gone. It was five sec­onds of pure ex­hil­a­ra­tion. I hooked a fish on my first day, on my first cast - but it wasn’t the fish that was hooked.

I’ve wit­nessed the same ex­cite­ment on the faces of hun­dreds of an­glers over the years.

I watched a young boy land his first fish on the Gan­der River. He played it for a few min­utes, got it close to shore and his fa­ther scooped it up in the net. As his fa­ther, un­cle and some other men crowded around the fish, the boy, still stand­ing alone a few feet out­side the cir­cle, tried to col­lect him­self. There he stood, wide eyed, tak­ing short deep breaths and shak­ing his head side to side as if he had just been hit by a trans­port truck. An­other poor pa­thetic adren­a­line junkie is born - he was hooked.

I’ve seen a mid­dle-age man do a com­bi­na­tion of Fats Domino’s “The Twist” and a New­fie jig, all in waisthigh raging wa­ter. He ap­peared at a glance to be a pretty tough look­ing char­ac­ter but as soon as he hooked that fish, it all melted away. Amongst the hoots and hollers, I over­heard him ex­plain that he had been sal­mon fish­ing for close on six years and that was the first time he hooked a fish. Even though it only lasted for a few brief sec­onds, the joy of it was over­whelm­ing.

Thou­sands flock to Florida each year for the thrill rides and amuse­ment parks, but I don’t be­lieve there’s any­thing in this world that com­pares to the feel­ing of an At­lantic sal­mon on the other end of a tight line - Walt Dis­ney, eat your heart out.

I’ve watched an el­derly lady in her late 70s hook a fish on the Hum­ber River from a flat-bot­tom boat. Stand­ing at at­ten­tion, she wres­tled the fish for 15 or 20 min­utes and fi­nally ma­noeu­vred it close enough so that her hus­band could use the net. On a calm sum­mer af­ter­noon, near dusk, the top pool of Big Falls erupted in a cho­rus of spon­ta­neous ap­plause. She raised her right arm in the air and gave us all a vic­tory salute - she had slayed the beast.

I’ve watched the light at sun­rise pierce the tops of the spruce and pine and il­lu­mi­nate the rip­ples and ed­dies of the pools. The first rays of sun seem to awaken the fish and the rivers come alive. I’ve wit­nessed great leviathans rise up from the deep, en­ticed by a few tan­gled wisps of moose hair, only to have them sniff the fly inches from the sur­face and slowly dis­ap­pear back into the dark. The only con­scious feel­ing you have is the pound­ing of your pulse and the feel­ing that your heart is about to burst from your chest.

I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced time travel, where the sun ap­pears to race across the sky and you’re left dumb­founded, stand­ing waist high in cold, dark wa­ter won­der­ing where the day went, only to rise a few hours later, ex­cited by the prospect of do­ing it all over again.

I don’t know what the fu­ture is for At­lantic sal­mon, but one thing is for cer­tain. We need to do ev­ery­thing in our power to pre­serve what we have. We need to work to­gether, trust each other and be will­ing to make sac­ri­fices - be­cause once it’s gone, it’s gone for­ever.

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