First salmon: a true story

I hope you enjoy this story of a first-ever salmon told by work colleague Nick. It seems to me that all first salmon stories are good (there’s a nice recent one here), but this one is funnier than most and reminds us to not take it all too seriously (hard, I know!)..

It was October 19, 1990, and I was visiting a salmon fishery ‘somewhere in the West Country’ (my reticence to reveal its exact location will become all too clear). I remember the date so precisely only because I also remember listening, with increasing fury, to radio reports of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘loyal’ ministers showing treachery beyond belief to the leader who had nurtured their political careers. She resigned the next day.

The river hadn’t been fishing well; it was a classic case of “you should have been here last week” or “come back next week when we’ve had some rain”. Fly was a non-starter, worm failed to work its magic, in short I didn’t look as though I was going to break my salmon duck.

The fishery owner was of the same opinion, though whether that was a reflection on the water levels or on my perceived ability as a fluff-flinger I shall never know. Good chap that he is, he suggested we go to look at other stretches of the river, and somehow a spinning rod found its way into the Land Rover.

By and by we approached a particularly bleak aspect of moorland where a tributary was spanned by a rough-hewn stone bridge, and my host said he couldn’t half do with a pee: he would walk 100 yards down the left bank to a clump of bushes. In a moment of bravado I grabbed the rod and headed off upstream, shouting to him that by the time he’d relieved himself I would have caught that elusive salmon.

And, unbelievably, it happened. First chuck with the spinner and there was a dull weight on the line as a fish as red as a cock robin’s breast, and with all the fight of a perforated plastic bag gave up the will to live (I swear it heaved a sigh of relief as it came uncomplainingly to hand). In my excitement I forgot all the gentlemanly rules about what one should or should not do with salmon in a stale and ruddy state. Indeed, the blood lust washed over me and I am sorry to say that I smote it once, twice over the head with a rock and bore it back in triumph to the vehicle.

I cannot recall what my companion said, but I do not think he articulated his true thoughts – I was, after all, his guest. So too was the elderly, less circumspect chap back at the lodge, who took one look at my prize and said disdainfully: “That is a fish pie salmon if ever I saw one. If I were you I should hide it away, not show it around like the fool you are.”

And so I did (hide it, that is). The Red One travelled back with me to the Fens and went into my freezer, where it stayed for four years until I mentioned its presence in passing to a farming friend. Happily, he had a passion for salmon and I a passion for Devon lamb, and so we swapped, pound for pound. My meal was delicious; I cannot conceive his being so, but all’s fair, etcetera.

That was my first and only English salmon, or indeed salmon of any description.

(Thanks to Nick Fletcher for the story.)

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