to the summer steelhead of the Coquihalla River
is too light an adjective. Spiritual, colourful, noisy, sad - all these
and more apply.
most appropriately, this is a place where the best descriptor is - challenging.
Here, man and beast have focused great energies, for special achievement.
Man has come, left his mark and faded from the scene, leaving but a few
ghosts. The fish struggle on, doing what their instincts have demanded
for millennia. Hindered by man along the way, their fate now trembles
on the abyss of extinction.
All the senses
are pervaded in this place. Upstream, glass-like pools appear motionless,
reluctant to take the dramatic plunge over gradients which rapidly fall
away. But ever so slowly clear green flows become a chaotic mixture of
air, water and sound. The roar and crash of chutes and falls rebounds
off high canyon walls and comes and goes on fickle breezes. The air is
moist and cool with the fragrance of moss and cedar.
tunnels are testimony to a railroad enterprise that was. Dreams, sweat
and blood were spent climbing these few kilometers of supposedly impenetrable
wilderness, creating a better way from here to there. The steel is gone,
but even mans most fervent critic must wonder at these early feats.
level the fishes view is one of towering boulders and bedrock, smoothed
and sculpted by a million run-offs. Gravity throws the river over drops
and compresses it through narrow crevices in the granite. During early
summer its a daunting place for summer steelhead and dolly varden
char. These are special fish which have the timing, stamina and fortune
to be the only species uniquely able to ascend this canyon, and spawn
and rear in the upper river habitat. Getting there is a thousand leaps
and a few lucky ones; try, try and rest - then try again. Such wonderful,
relentless, admirable fortitude !
grey steelhead swim on station in the canyon pool. They are easily visible,
backdropped by a large white boulder and illuminated by dappled sunlight.
In a superficial way, one can know these fish - their life history; the
perils they face from nature and man; how to hold them for a few frantic
moments with line and fly. However, to truly appreciate them, you must
visit their adversity - this canyon - which has physically created them
and their specialness in an esoteric process called evolution. Admire
their strength and the purpose which sends them crashing against canyon
walls, time after time and year after year
- and hope there will be a future.