Ruminations (Salmon River)

I had sworn off October visits to the Salmon River long ago, but when a friend invites me to go fishing with him I do not decline unless I’m sick, already anchored to a schedule by divine authority, or dying. So I had a rainy midweek visit to the Salmon River in New York and found, quite surprisingly, that there was room to fish its hallowed waters and to spend some entertaining hours.

My fishing pal, J., had a new RV and a reservation for two nights at a campsite near the river. Lawn signs and porch banners plastered the North Country with only two weeks remaining to the general election. MAGA signage was everywhere: Make Altmar Great Again! The campground was quiet but frosted with political sentiment. I agreed to pay our reservation fee.

color from the home place, Greenwood…

Our host came to greet us in his truck. He didn’t seem particularly sober, though he was conspiratorial, claiming that Covid-19 was linked somehow to government control. I handed him his money and suggested that he not spend it all in one place. He huffed and answered, Naw

By the way, who would I be voting for, he queried. Since it really wasn’t any of his business, I replied that he probably wouldn’t like my answer if I told him. He insisted on knowing, though, so I made my revelation, and added, “Everybody needs to get out and vote. Every able-bodied citizen capable of thinking of our health and happiness for the next four years should vote!”

He didn’t like my answer, and equated me with his mother-in-law. I remembered the Ernie K. Doe song from 1961, and thought… Gee, I’ve never been compared to anybody’s mother-in-law before…

And what about J., who had just hauled our bodies to this northern steelhead capital with a trailerful of conveniences? The host wanted to know how J. was  planning to vote, as well.

J. was cool as packaged celery, and obviously didn’t want to invite more trouble than was necessary. He simply answered our soaked, inebriated host by stating he was undecided– no doubt one of the eleven remaining American voters still sitting on the fence between Mr. Don and Mr. Joe.

a king coming in…

Due to drought conditions, the Fly-fishing Only stretch below the state hatchery on the Salmon River was closed this year. The water was low, and the hatchery needed every spawning fish that survived the river’s gantlet for the eggs it might deliver. Rain was falling on our first day of fishing, and there seemed to be an adequate water supply in every other section we inspected.

We weren’t casting for more than half an hour on the first day when the river stones beneath J.’s feet began to act unruly, shifting unexpectedly and causing him to drop, sideways at first (I think) and then up to his neck. He shook it off quickly, and I hope I was just as quick to sympathize, knowing my own turn might be coming up at any moment. Summer was over, and it wasn’t all that warm anymore, especially while fishing in the rain, but J. soldiered on for another half an hour till deciding he had better trundle off for drying at a laundromat somewhere in Pulaski.

42 inches long, it strained the old bamboo arms…

I stayed for the next two hours looking for trout and any fresh-run salmon willing to give me a big fish tussle. I got matched by two different salmon that made my 8-weight groan with terror, but the browns and steelhead, just arriving for their annual appearance in the river, would evade our efforts on this trip, although they did help to keep our spirits high and cheerful.

The rising and setting of the sun each day, as witnessed from our humble campsite, was a deeply orange affair that darkened toward something like Republican Red Wine– a taste too bitter for me, but apparently smooth for many palates in this otherwise pleasant region. So, good fishing can be had. And if no craft beer is available for an evening by the campfire, Pabst Blue Ribbon can’t be more than one convenient store away.

I’ll bet our host’s mother-in-law would drink that PBR.

[And when voting, she’ll remember to consider many things, including our fisheries, our water quality, our wildlife, and the wild places everything is so dependent on… THANK YOU, MOM!]

old fish leaping, after the fly’s release…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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19 Responses to Ruminations (Salmon River)

  1. Jim Kittleson says:

    A rewarding short break from the rat race, with a good friend, good food, fish, and a nice fall (in more than one sense of the word!). Thanks Walt! Nicely done.

  2. Brent says:

    I have a feeling you probably caught the nosy souse off guard. I’m sure he’s used to either getting the answer he wants, or a suitably comforting lie (although, of course, he shouldn’t be asking in the first place). Maybe he’ll think better of his mother-in-law knowing that her views are shared by a steelhead angler, but I won’t hold my breath. The river sure looks beautiful, otherwise.

    • Interesting point there, Brent, it’s possible he’ll think better of her, but I doubt it when considering the hardheaded notions so many of us carry through these soft-brained & chaotic times. Nonetheless, I’ll vouch for HIS mother-in-law over Ernie K. Doe’s.

  3. An over-riding sense of ‘My GOD look at the head’s on those things!’ just seems to come to mind when I see those fish pictures. My goodness Walt! NICE fish! I hate politics. When someone asks me who I’ve voting for, I tell them I’m a proud registered Independent (which I am… at least the registered independent part). It really isn’t anyone’s business who someone else votes for is it? On the other hand, I can understand that if we can’t talk about our different beliefs, how can anyone change their opinions? I don’t know what the answer/s is/are. But it sure would be nice if more respected a different opinion than their own. (off the soapbox)… UB

    • As an old Independent myself, I agree with you completely, UB. I prefer to keep my mouth shut in these situations, especially since the populace today appears to be so divided & entrenched already, but if pressed I feel that it’s important to be standing & accounted for, on the chance that the listener is sober enough (or otherwise) to respect a differing opinion. Thanks!

  4. loydtruss says:

    I wish we could get that fly fishing only sign you mentioned and place it on the Sipsey and get it enforced. Unbelievable salmon on the bamboo; the fight tested your skill as a fly fisherman and the strength of the fly rod as well, congrats!!! Thanks for sharing

    • A fly-fishing only designation on the Sipsey would be good for you and a lot of anglers, not to mention all of the trout. Let’s hope that it can happen, Bill. As for salmon, they put a lot of strain on the old bamboo but, with care, those rods last & last. Thanks!

  5. says:

    Like your views. Try dropping by again   Bohemian Bob

  6. plaidcamper says:

    You’ve a good-humoured approach here, Walt, and it served you well in that strained encounter. More humour, more care, and a good deal more thought, and who knows? Maybe this coming Tuesday won’t be so bad…
    I enjoyed your words, music and pictures for this damp yet genial excursion – thank you!

  7. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful fish, Walt. I myself have been fishless for some time. Paid a visit to the Keystone Select waters on Kinzua Creek, only to go fishless and find a contingent of beavers putting in work. In fact, more work than I felt necessary, as their dams and partially completed dams were radically changing the dynamics of some of the best holding water on the stream. Let’s hope come Tuesday that there is a radical shift in the dynamics in direction of the politics of this country. By the way, there’s never a need to grab a Pabst Blue Ribbon, no matter how dire the circumstances. Is Utica Club still available in that neck of the woods?

    • Bob, I know what you mean about a surplus of beavers on a trout stream, changing the dynamics of the water (often to increase sediment & water temp), upsetting the balance there… No as bad as a corrupt political system, though. The PBR– I’m not a fan, though it does have a certain blue-collar appeal. As for Utica Club, I haven’t seen it anywhere in a long while. Not even certain if it’s brewed anymore. Maybe someone can help us out on that…

  8. Mike says:

    Always poke my head around these parts, Walt, and am always pleased. Hope you continue to be well; catching fish, writing prose, and speaking your mind.


  9. Way to go, Mike. There certainly have been some silver linings to 2020 for those of us willing & able to have appreciated our own backyards!

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