Sunday, June 19, 2011

CwtBC (Pt. IV): Fishin' the Klamath River Canyon

Camping with the Brothers Cariaga: My woodsy brothers, Eric and Calee, and our friends, Mike Bellmore and Kris Ross, have over the past six or seven years established a tradition of camping and fishing the Klamath River Canyon in late May and early June. This year, I joined them...

Read Part I, In search of the morel, here
Read Part II, A beacon for those to come, here
Read Part III, Rugged beauty in the lava beds, here.

Klamath River Canyon
My brothers told me the water is very high this year.  A result of the late snowfall that started in mid-February and didn't let up for six weeks.  The snow pack covered the Cascade Mountains, approaching record levels. Now, the run-off swells waterways throughout the region.  The river was as high as ever they had seen it.  

High water volume doesn't make for the best fishing, they told me.  I'm not a fisherman, but it makes sense.  High water means that more insects, crayfish, and frogs get swept into the water, making fishing lures and tied flies less alluring for hungry trout. 

Kris Ross, pullin' one out
And, indeed, in the several hours we spent scrabbling and climbing among the rocks, the lads had only a half-dozen hits.  They landed two of the native red-band rainbow trout that rule this river, but most days they do better than that.  "The bite never really turned on," Kris Ross mused that evening, in camp.

They're catch-and-release fishermen, those men.  Occasionally, they kill a fish in the act of landing it, but they never do so purposefully.  They have enormous respect for the trout and for the river.

Stinging nettle
It is a rough go, down into the canyon.  The ground is broken and severe.  Rocks, tumbled down by the river over thousands of years, litter the canyon walls.  Swift water and deep, roaring rapids raise the stakes. One wrong step and a man could be carried off in the blink of an eye.  There are rattlesnakes and stinging nettles.

Red-band rainbow trout
When we were boys, Dad would take Eric and me to this canyon, to his secret fishing holes in the rugged country where few fisherman go.  I lost interest as I grew older.  But for Eric, it became a ritual and a way of life.  He has never stopped coming back.

Rugged, beautiful country
The return to Klamath River Canyon was quite an experience.  This trip evoked dim memories from my youth, before I turned away from the earthly knowledge that my brothers and friends embrace.  And although I don't regret that I've chosen a different life --a life of books and travel and playing guitar --the raw, honest beauty of the canyon made me once again wonder if I hadn't taken a wrong turn somewhere.

The river was like an almost-forgotten brother from whom I had so long been parted that we no longer knew each another.  As with all things challenging and mysterious, the river offers a gift for those who have the wisdom and the grit to seek it out.

It all made me realize just how proud I am of these brothers of mine.

Brother Eric in his element
To be continued...

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

Hey brother you gotta bring me along next time :0)

This is awesome just reading your posts. Have fun!!