The broad trunks of looming trees fill the sky and sunlight filters through the dust of decaying leaves. Mist materializes from dew-topped blades of grass, and hints of dark flight appear amid the stony stream. The smell of damp soil fills my nose and the soft hum of flowing water resonates in my ears. Rows of extended hooks and rubber boots line the river. Dark shadows lie between the rocks, and transparent lines pull smooth salmon bodies from the water. Fishermen shout in glee and cast the catch back.
Don Lowe, one of the fishermen, was especially excited to have witnessed the Pacific salmon flying through the waters again. “I’ve been here every year since 2008. There’s a curious gravity to its capture—a satisfaction, really,” he said. “Holding it for a second before releasing it into the water, then seeing its body flow with the current and around each rock effortlessly, yet with direction. It’s beautiful.”
Another fisherman, Roger Wallace, reflected on the importance of Atlantic salmon to the Credit. “There is some concern, though, [about] the multitude of fish in this river,” he said. “It’s grand and dandy when people catch the rainbow trout, brown trout, and Pacific salmon. It’s when they want the Atlantic salmon when the problems arise. They’re protected under the Endangered Species Act; we can be fined if the fish aren’t released immediately.”
Regardless, the fishermen were happy just to see the salmon back in the river. Garrett Boylan volunteered with the Credit Valley Conservation, planting more than 400,000 trees along the river to provide the needed shade for heat-sensitive fish. “It’s amazing that we’ve been able to restore salmon to the Credit River, and so many fishermen to greet their return,” he said.
Indeed, The Toronto Star ran an article in August (“Rehab has made the Credit River a hot spot for salmon fishing”) about how none of this was possible 50 years ago, or even 20, before stocking and cleaning brought back the fish population that is both profitable and recreational.
We must remember to respect the lives of the fish as well. Walking along the rocks bordering the river, I saw two mutilated fish lying open with the sun reflecting off their grey scales. Fisherman Westen Yonge said it wasn’t an odd sight, since some people cut open the salmon for their roe before tossing the dead fish back into the river. According to Yonge, the practice is unhealthy for the other wildlife in the river.
In any case, the sight of salmon flying through the rapids of the Credit is not one to be missed. Whether partaking in fishing directly or passively observing its beauty, it truly is a wondrous experience.