As big leaf maples light up the forest around our house and the days feel suddenly shorter, I always start thinking about silver salmon. Sure, we catch them all through summer out on the Sound or in the ocean, but this is different. This is the season when big northern silvers pour into rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest, a season I always equate with these fish.
It might be because the first big fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a silver, taken from a small creek on the Oregon coast when I was ten years old. Or all the subsequent days I spent through my youth, out in the crisp autumn air, chasing silvers. When I hear that rustling sound of huge maple leaves tumbling down through branches, or smell the sweet scent of wet alders, it brings me right back to those days.
Of course, it could also be because these fish enter the rivers in peak condition, with deep red flesh and layers of delicious fat. And silvers freeze better, in my opinion, than the more typically prized kings. But you have to get them quickly–a week or two in freshwater and they become mere shadows of their former selves, depleted in the service of reproduction. And soon after that, they will spawn, and then die, their bodies providing nutrients for the next generation. Like the blazing maple leaves and chanterelles, silvers are a perfect symbol of a season that always passes too quickly.