SALMON (Salmo salar). The salmon, "the king of fresh water fish," according to old Isaac WaU ton, is so well known that a very brief description will serve. The colour of the back and sides is gray, sometimes spotted with black, sometimes plain; the covers of the gills are subject to the same variety ; the belly silvery ; the nose sharp-pointed ; the end of the under jaw in the males often turns up in the form of a hook, resembling the beak of a bird. It is said they lose this gristly excrescence when they return to the sea. The teeth are lodged in the jaws and on the tongue, and are slender, but very sharp; the tail is a little forked. Sir Francis Bacon observes, " the age of a salmon exceeds not ten years." " So let me next tell you," adds Walton, " that his growth is very sudden : it is said that after he is got into the sea, he becomes from a samlet not so big as a gudgeon to be a salmon in as short a time as a gosling becomes to be a goose."
Salmon are accustomed to quit the sea at the commencement of April, and take to the rivers, and generally quit the fresh water and retire again into the sea at the approach of winter; but the Wye and Usk, in Monmouthshire, and the Exe, in Devonshire, have them in season all the six wintry months. The best and fmest species of this fish is caught in the Exe, the Thames, and the Tamar; but they are not so numerous as in many other places. They prefer, generally speaking, colder streams, and are therefore more numerous in the rivers of Scotland, particularly the Tweed, Tyne, Clyde, and Tay. In the latter they are often found seventy pounds in weight, and in the Tweed and Clyde fifty or sixty pounds. They are found in all the great rivers and streams of Europe north of 51°, and in America, north of 41°; but in the American rivers they seldom exceed fifteen to twenty pounds in weight. They appear for some time in the river before they are in a healthy state, owing perhaps, in some degree, to the changes of water. The best time for the angler to begin to take them is the close of May, and the early part of June. In September and October they deposit their spawn, and become very sickly both in appearance and flavour. Just before spawning they retire to brooks and streams which branch out from the main river, or remain in the shallows scarcely covered with water, where they fabricate a kind of trough for the female to deposit her eggs in, which being done, the male shoots a whitish fluid over them, and afterwards the male and female unite to cover the whole with gravel, and conceal them with the greatest industry. The male is so diligent in this, that he frequently kills himself with fatigue, and always is longer in recovering than the female. The vivification of the spawn takes place with great rapidity about the commencement of April, when the sun has acquired sufficient strength to warm the bottom of the shoals where they are deposited. When the shoals are swelled by the spring floods, the young fry hurry downward to the sea.
About July and August they return to the same rivers, and remain till December, when they revisit the sea, and upon their return to the fresh waters the next summer, they attain the size, appearance, and flavour of salmon. They rarely or never forsake their parent streams. These fish are said to be forced from their salt water residence by an insect which adheres closely to their bodies, called the sea-louse, which however drops off on their return to the fresh waters. After their second return to the fresh waters, they are subject to a gradual decline in health and appearance ; their skia loses its silvery hue, and acquires a dirty colour. Their heads grow very large; their flesh becomes loose and insipid ; their scales seem almost rubbed off, and their gills are dreadfully infested with the lionea salmonea. In this stage they are called shotten salmon, and in their departure for the sea they make frequent stops, and seem almost unable of proceeding. Although they are delighted with clear rivers, which take their rise in mountains having a deep gravelly bottom; they uniformly avoid streams which flow upon ore, or amongst calcareous formations. When the warmth is intense, they retire beneath the shelter of trees; and are so susceptible of the vicissitudes of weather, that they leap about and express the most sensible emotions of joy at an approaching shower. They are, however, much alarmed at thunder-storms, and seek a close shelter in the bottom of the river. In fresh water they always lie with their heads pointing up the river, and never swim down the stream, unless during their emigration to the sea. The extraordinary leaps of this fish, as well as its characteristic food, have excited much attention. Being both bow and arrow, they shoot themselves out to an incredible height and length, says Fuller.
Erecting themselves on their fins, they crowd to the bottom of a fall of twelve feet perpendicular, and spring up the precipice with the greatest confil deuce; and if unsuccessful in the | first attempt, will make a second, and even a third. On the river Erich, called the Keith, there is a cataract of thirteen feet fall, which they uniformly leap. There is another in the Tivy, Pembrokeshire, which Drayton describes in his sixth song of the Polyolbion.
In angling for salmon the rod should be from seventeen to twenty feet in length. The reel should be made of brass, constructed with the utmost nicety, and capable of the swiftest circumvolutions (see Reel). The hue may be of silk or horse-hair, having a loop at the end of the wheel, and another at the casting line, to fasten them to each other. The last should be very carefully twisted, and shorter than the rod, that none of the knots may come within the rings. The line or link should diminish towards the hook, where they are commonly made of three small round twisted silkworm-guts, or a few strong horsehairs. Of flies, the natural ones that are proper are mentioned ia the table (see Fishing-fly and Baits) ; the artificial ones should be large, and of a gaudy glittering colour, composed of hairs, furs, and wool, mingled with the tail-feathers of the golden pheasant, flamingo, peacock, game fowl, and the domestic cock, secured together by gold and silver thread, plated wire, marking silk, bees' wax, shoemaker's wax, &c. The wings may be of feathers of a showy colour. A raw cockle or muscle, taken out of the shell, have been successfully employed as baits for salmon. The proper way of using them is to drop the line into a shallow, near the edge of a hole of a considerable depth, and let it be carried in by the current.
Considerable difficulty is experienced by young anglers in throwing the line. It should be cast across the river on the off side of the spot where you imagine the salmon will rise. When you think he has been struck, let him have time to swallow the bait securely, and afterwards stick the hook firmly in him by means of a gentle twitch. He will then plunge and spring with great violence; perhaps run away with a great length of line, which should always be kept in a relaxed state so as to yield easily to his obstinate resistance. If he becomes sullen and quiet in the water, rouse him by throwing in stones, and when he again commences resistance, let him have plenty of line, following him down the stream till he exhausts himself, taking every opportunity to wind up your line, and give him the length of the rod, till you approach him in this weary state, and take him gently by the gills out of the water. The gaff, when dexterously used, is a convenient mode of landing a salmon. The most favourable time is when the sun shines watery, and when there is a fresh wind after a flood; also, when the water is slighty urged by the tide so as it be not thick or muddy.
If the salmon should rise greedily at the fly but miss it, take care not to throw in your fly again sooner than three minutes, when you may be assured of his rising again.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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