"The loss of the fish in world famous salmon rivers like the Test and Itchen in Hampshire or the Frome in the West country will not only affect biodiversity but devastate the local economy.
The UK Government are so worried about the problem they are currently funding a study using the same technology that was used to study life on Mars and dinosaur remains to look at how climate change is affecting the fish.
Salmon populations in the UK have plummeted 70 per cent in the last 30 years, according to the North Atlantic Salmon Fund". SOURCE
Right, I promised you tales of Wild Salmon Wrestling earlier this week, so here goes - Gird your loins!
Driving home in shotgun position with my husband, GJ, in the dark on Friday night, our cottage was in sight and we were looking forward to getting supper on and the wine out, when our progress was halted by a glistening vision of utter loveliness.
We have to drive through two river fords on our little country road and most of the year they are pretty passable. The rivers are only swollen for a few weeks each year, and much of the time you can walk through and over the fords. Up ahead of us, captured by the headlights, as he flip-flopped back and forth in the shallow waters was a large wild salmon.
"Oh, bloody hell!" cried GJ, "Not again... Right, it's your turn - Out you go!"
What he meant by barking this order in my direction was that he had rescued a salmon in the other ford last year, sending it gleefully on its way upstream, and had thenceforward regaled me beamingly with his derring herring do, and here was my chance to shine - Here was my moment to seize the crown as reigning Wild Salmon Wrestler (WSW).
I waded into the gushing water which trickled into my red patent shoes. I knew my old, probably now vintage, shoes wouldn't survive their baptism, but the fish was worth it.
Now I was practically cankle-deep in the river, I wondered for the first time how would I actually get hold of the fish. The closest I've been to handling fishies not on dishies was those we've housed as golden pets over the years, and this fish certainly wasn't going to fit into a coffee cup, and wait patiently beside the kitchen sink to be decanted into fresh clean water.
Arms outstretched I approached him floundering, wriggling from side to side. Him not me, but it was a close call. GJ shouted mostly helpful instructions from the driver's seat - "Get a firm hold on the front and on the back!" I wrassled with the fish which must have been over two foot long. He wriggled back and away, mouth gaping, gasping for breath. I levered him out of the shallow water, trying not to soak my woollen winter coat, but unable to get a firm grip on his writhing form. He broke free and shot out of my arms, as if he were a slippery bar of soap - Whoosh, through the air, and back into another part of the stream, still not deep enough for him to gain any purchase.
He waited once more. I sludged through the waters towards him, wondering if I could hold him like I used to cuddle the cats, up against me cake shelf. Success! With one hand grasping his muscled underbelly, the other almost tickling under his chin, I made progress towards the deeper waters which led upstream. Once again, however, fishy got the upper hand and slurped out of my grasp through the air, arcing towards the sparkling waters. This time, he was nearer the downstream flow. Once again, I moved on, hoping that the sharp descents into the ford hadn't damaged him in any way.
I took a moment to have a closer look at him this last time. He shone like silver in the moonlight and the artificial glow of the headlights. He was dappled and wondrous, muscular and full of electric life, painted in pinks, greens and browns. His eyes were bright and he had a determined glint, as those do who return after many years at sea, desperate to spawn, with only instinct and a sense of smell as guide and compass...
I tried again to walk, or wade with him into the deeper waters and he broke free one final time, quickly slipping away down through slightly deeper water, swishing his tail to and fro, speeding downstream.
Mission half way accomplished, I slithered back to the car, GJ saying that fishy would now be catching his breath downstream, and then he would attempt the swim once more, driven onwards and upwards by grit and determination. The rain fell down on the windscreen. Hopefully the river would swell tonight to speed his passage home to where he himself was spawned.
I felt incredibly calm after my fishy encounter. Calm and a little shattered. ...At peace with the animal underworld, as it were, or at least its underbelly... It was, after all, as if I had tapped into a vital and very visceral moment in life... One of contact and communication with a truly wild creature, helping him to survive the odds, the loaded dice life had thrown his way.
I thought it was a beautiful moment. I hope you do too.