Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Forty years ago it was an occasional cause of complaint by my wife that she had woken to find salmon scales again in our marital bed. I wonder how many wives around the Estuary have had the same cause. Whenever a fisherman who is lucky enough to have caught and handled fish comes home in the dark hours weary from working the nets and out of consideration for his sleeping wife finds his bed without switching on a light depend upon it there will be salmon scales between the sheets in the morning. Even if he is conscientious enough to scrub and shower before climbing into bed some of the shining scales will cling to him.

The salmon’s scales are things of beauty and are irridescent.

There are of course also the other kind of salmon scales, that is to say scales with which to weigh salmon. These my skipper kept in his fish shed where he had also a chest freezer. This freezer had been purchased second hand and had once belonged to an ice cream vendor. On the lid were still depicted ice creams and lollies in glorious colour. Children invited into the fish shed found these depictions of more interest than the fish. The weightiest salmon that was caught the three summers that I was with the salmon boat hit the scales at over twenty four pounds. As salmon go this is hardly a record. The salmon that once ended up stuffed and in a sad case at the Royal Albert Museum at Exeter weighed more than a hundred pound. But the fish we caught seemed to me a whopper and I took it to show my infant children at the cottage door. They still remember the fish hanging over both my arms, the head down one side and the tail down the other.

No doubt there were salmon scales to be washed from my clothes.

Tomorrow a pretty poem about an estuarial swan.

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