I spent the last two days standing in the pouring rain, just below Smith River Falls in the Oregon Coast Range. Despite the weather report calling for massive windstorms and rain, it really didn’t hit until late Sunday while Karl and I were on our way out of the bush.
The rain seemed to be part of the air, the mist on the hills, the water I was standing in, seeping into my waders and rain-jacket. It was all one water. And I was in it with the salmon.
What a mix of fish under Smith River falls! Chinook, Winter and Summer Steelhead and endangered Oregon Coho were all stacked up in the pool. All of the salmon were dark (not that you could keep them anyway — no wild coho harvest, no chinoook harvest above tidewater), but they were awesome to see.
We caught a few fish on spinners — flies and bait didn’t do particularly well.
That diversity of species, the stream system’s ability to handle that much water and not blow out, the rainforest, calving rocks — it just seems like such a solid and intact ecosystem and it would be insane that anyone would disregard that and try to force more clear cuts. There is a lot of BLM land along the Smith River drainage and the pending WOPR could be a nightmare for that fishery. I can’t believe the system is as strong as it is, considering the historic over harvest of fish and timber in this area. [Contact your reps about the WOPR]
But the attitude of trashing this place is rampant. There was a bar between Smith River Falls and Gardiner that had some of the craziest right wing propaganda I’ve ever seen (A cartoon with loggers hauling a giant spotted owl out of the woods on a logging truck with the caption — build your house with this; Some Adolph Hitler gun control quote with a picture of Bill Clinton at the top). The kind of place with the bumper stickers that read “Earth First: We’ll log the other planets later”.
Then I bitched out a bunch of little kids — couldn’t have been more than 16 — for throwing trash in the river. I went up to the truck ready to drag them out and send them down the river, hog-tied with mono, but they were young and kind of scared (am I that old-looking?) — so I felt bad and told them I wasn’t going to turn in their license plates, and just said “you’re obviously down here because you like this area, the river, what the hell are you doing?” They left with their tails between their legs — old Karl was giving them the stink eye.
We were armed just in case though. We carried an axe in the car in case trees came down and we had to chop ourselves out of the bush. On the way out, giant widow-makers were flying off the ridges above the road and came crashing down — one was lying just a few feet from the Civic when we got back from fishing.