I want to dedicate this post to Bill Otway who passed away in Merritt last Sunday. He was a champion of the rights of hunters, fishers, and the environment.
About 20 years ago I saw a thin red line on the southern bank of the Thompson River south of Spences Bridge, B.C. I had been swimming in this river on an off all August while I was living in the area after the carnival I had been working on had parked it's gear for the winter and I wasn't in any hurry to go home.
But as August cooled into October and the weather began to change I had decided that I could no longer handle the cold river because the lovely heat of summer had gone but I was still drawn to the river where I also had enjoyed sketching and reading. The day after that decision I walked across the highway to see how my swimming hole was looking and was shocked to see a blood red streak racing upriver.
I instantly recalled that this must be the massive fish migration we learned about in school and barreled down to see it up close.
I can't even begin to say how awed I was to see this. If I had been willing to get my feet wet I could have grabbed salmon right out of the water without any effort. Every shade of red and degree of abrasion was to be seen on these salmon as they swam their way against the rough current on their way to the Shuswap and onward to their place of birth on the Adams River. At this point in the river they had come about 2/3 of the way.
Over the years I often thought about that experience and always kept my eye on the river banks in October in the hopes of seeing this again. When I lived in Maple Ridge with my husband for a year I did manage to see chum salmon moving up Kanaka Creek and almost walked right into a bear eating salmon on that same river. But since we moved to Merritt a few years ago I made a vow that I would visit the spawning grounds - only a two hour drive from home - and show my husband this wonderful phenomena
It was a really fun day for us and I was awed and amazed at the sheer numbers of fish in the river. You could practically walk across their backs in some places. There were heavily congested parts of the river where the fish churned around restlessly waiting for the spawning beds to open up and further along they were evenly spread across the shallow gravels. Still in other places where the river meandered off into streams the salmon were going about their waiting in a more leisurely way.
I was also impressed with the turnout of people in Roderick Haig-Brown Park where the best viewing was to be had. I took videos on my phone to show Bill the next day but to our great sadness he had passed away that morning. We miss him and I know I will always think of him whenever I go to a river and see a salmon heading upstream in fall on it's way to finish off it's last days in the Shuswap.
The running of the salmon on the Adam's River.
Educating the younger generation.
A relatively calm pair of salmon.
Deformed head of a male salmon breaking water and showing his teeth.
Daring to touch!
A great view of all those fish.
The living swim among the dead.
Salmon awaiting space in the salmon beds downstream- one shows a tag.