Swimming with Salmon
One thing I’ve wanted to do all summer is to get in the water with spawning salmon to try to get some pictures. Well our sojourn in Lillooet was a perfect opportunity as the Pink Salmon are currently running.
About a mile from town is a little river called Cayaoosh Creek. Just under the one lane bridge that the road crosses the river on there are a large number of spawning salmon and it was here that I decided to try my hand at some photography.
So dressed in my 3mm wetsuit and clutching my camera I waded into the river. My first feeling was one of utter shock at the freezing water – I’m glad I didn’t try this any further North because the water is just so cold. After a few minutes the Ice Cream Headache fades and I can submerge my head for more than a few seconds at a time. Its amazing what you can acclimatise too !
By the time that the Salmon get to the spawning grounds they are in pretty bad shape. They don’t eat from the time that they enter the rivers from the sea and once the start spawning they start dying. Bits are literally falling off them. The dying salmon are easy to get close to as they have much less energy. The ones who are not so far gone are much harder to get to as they powerfully swim down the river.
The area I am in ranges from a deep area which is about 2m deep to a shallow gravel bar with only 10cm or so of water in it. The shallow area is much easier to work in as the current isn’t so strong.
After about 30 minutes in the water I hear a shout from Sarah – “Bear”. So I look up and working his way down the river about 100 metres away is a medium size black bear. He stops to munch on the brains of dead salmon on the river side but keeps moving towards us. I’m not too worried until he gets almost alongside me on the bank – only 10 metres or so away. At this point I think its better to look a person than a strange looking fish so I stand up and he takes one look at my wetsuit clad form and lollops away. I take a picture with my underwater camera using a fisheye lens – gives you an idea of how close the bear was.
Anyway soon after this I can’t take the cold anymore and we call it a day.