• Gordon MacLellan

Salmon, swimmer, leaper

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

round gravel, shallow water, but a long time since salmon swam here

In a previous blog today (Walk, wander, wonder), we invited you out for a walk through the woods and maybe to pause by a stream or brook. The connection between people and water is a repeating theme in this blog – we’ve looked at fonts and rivers and wells, at memories of water.

Rivers hold stories, in their movement, in their rising and falling, their rage and their dark, still depths, from winter bournes to the disappearing rivers of limestone summers. Rivers hold stories that run from mountain gravel beds to the deep sea and if we stand on a riverbank as summer draws to a close if we are in that right place, right time moment we might see the salmon leaping and we can watch the ancient, dramatic tale of the Swimmer. From American First Nation stories of Salmon Boy to the Salmon of Wisdom of Ireland to the salmon run that calls the bears to the Alaskan estuaries, to the flashing silver treasures of British rivers….if you are lucky enough to live near or can go and visit a river where the salmon still run….watch, wait, have patience. And wonder at the power and determination that keeps them leaping the falls, striving upstream, rapids and pools and waterfalls and more waterfalls for these golden gravel redds waiting for the falling pearls of salmon roe

Rogie Falls, nr Contin, where the salmon leap

Salmon says….

How little you use your senses

Though you think yourselves so advanced!

Have you savoured the waves of the ocean

For the flavour of your first dance?

Have you traced the taste through reeking deeps

To the waters where you were born?

We have swum thousands of briny miles

To leap upstream to spawn.

And we are proud of our offspring.

They will dance their parents’ dance

They, too, will follow the scent back home,

We salmon leave nothing to chance.

Poor you, with your cars and ships and planes;

Your rockets that fly to the moon!

You can’t event smell or taste your way

To yesterday afternoon!

Celia Warren

The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife poetry

Selected by Celia Warren, A&C Black, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4081-3118-3

Sea Trout, not salmon, but another swimmer who loves both river and sea


  • Thanks to Celia for permission to use her poem (find the book - it is a wonderful treasure house of poems

  • Sea Trout painting by Sue Eversfield, see more of her work at The Green Man Gallery

  • Photos: River Dove in Dovedale; Rogie Falls: c. G MacLellan

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