We dream of places where no road signs, traffic lights or city congestion will choke one up for hours, just arrows pointing to dirt roads that lead over endless landscape. Homesteaders settled here in the late 1800's seeing the opportunity for rich, abundant resources, wildlife and water but the landscape isn't what it used to be, hundreds of irrigation canals, reservoir dams and no trespassing signs add to the topography of the land forever changing a wild river.
After hours of driving, a dusty stretch of road emerges where there’s no fence line blocking an entry to the river, it’s almost dark and I set up camp and fall asleep to the sound of the river at my feet. The call of a Western Meadow Lark wakes me up at 5 am, I listen to the river gospel singing, reminding me of my childhood days in church, listening to the chore hum Amazing Grace. I get out of bed and brew some coffee, and change my fly to a subsurface beadhead because the river is moving fast and the visibility is about 2 feet.
The bank is green with tall native grasses; I analyze the river trying to determining where a fish might lie. There’s a small pool turning behind rocks and a soft seam hugging the bank. My first cast is to the grassy cut bank, casting up stream and stripping fast, I take a couple steps up stream and cast again, then behind a rock where the current is moving at a considerable pace and bam, the trout explodes, cart wheeling out the water. She’s strong, pulling, not giving in, her fight ceases after a few minutes and I get her to the bank and release her back.
This river use to be abundant with Steelhead but with the construction of reservoirs in the 1930's and then the Snake River dams, their passage has been blocked, so redband trout now struggle to survive and their fate is in the hands of The Bureau of Reclamation, the agency responsible for controlling the flows of the river and there is no minimum pool requirement. I can only wonder if she will make it to see next year and hope someday to catch and release her again.