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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!]