The North Umpqua has always been one of the truly great rivers to cast a fly for steelhead. Some of the earliest pioneers of the sport found their way to this hallowed ground and left their legends etched in the very bedrock the river flows through. The names they placed on the pools and riffles have been passed down over the years and still inspire hope and faith in modern anglers. Fishing the Camp Water at Steamboat is like fishing in church.
One can stand in the cool waters and gaze up at a towering pallet of lichen, moss, stone and trees more inspirational than the grandest stained glass window. Fog, clouds, rain and snow add to the artist’s brush strokes. Occasionally a deer grazes across the rocky face. This is a living work of art that changes with the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons. No two moments are ever alike, each is special, and each is different.
Miracles abound here and they too change with the seasons. Life blossoms and is born from the gravel washed for centuries by cool waters. Born travelers return hundreds of miles from far away seas to pass on their history, their purpose. Some live on and again make the journey. Others die and become part of the river. Some life travels only a few feet to break the surface tension and spread their wings. Their dance a testament to the purity of this place. Their birth a sign of the season.
Anglers, poets and dreamers also travel great distances to visit this place. Seeking inspiration and things that simple words can not express. It is not just for the challenge of the quarry that brings the angler, although that does call to us. It’s for the refreshing of our hearts and rebirth of our souls. This simple stream can rinse away the burdens we carry to its shores and leave us free to dream of the deeds we will do, the words we will write and the love we will share. It is a place of peace, hope, faith and inspiration.
As I wade the same water as great anglers have; I feel connected to them and the history they made. I feel part of that history and part of the river. One day perhaps anglers will look at this place in time and see a future that was made possible by the work of those who cherished the past and remembered it. For if we had never known of its greatness would we have held it so high as to make it a cause? Would it have just passed into memory? I know the river will always remain, but what of those things that make it special?
My hope is they too will remain. My faith in my fellow anglers’ efforts to protect and preserve this extraordinary place is an inspiration. Hopefully the river and the ghosts of her past will find continued peace. Peace in the cool green forest.