When I sit on the river bank behind my cabin on the lower Umpqua, I often wonder about the fish passing by on their way upriver.
The distance in a straight line from where I'm standing to the other side of the river is about 190 yards. The depth of the water under my boat is about three feet deep. The deepest part of the river here is on the far bank where it gets about thirteen feet deep.
My son's and I have SCUBA dived all of the water out in front of the cabin. We know what the bottom structure looks like. Its mostly large cobble with a basalt ledge on the far side with a few very large boulders where white sturgeon take up residence out of the current and where the smallmouth bass congregate in the warm summer flows.
The upper tidal reaches of the Umpqua end just down and around the corner from our cabin. 20 miles down river, the town of Reedsport plays host to a great fall salmon fishery. Fall Chinook and Coho (Silver Salmon) by the thousands are targeted by sport fishermen trolling bait and hardware in the estuary. The fish that make their way past the hundreds of boats plying these waters eventually arrive in the waters behind our place.
The winter steelhead that go past our place are so bright that their chrome scales reflect the low light of the leaden gray skies of December and January as if direct - July sunlight flashes from their sides.
The point to all of this is the daily wonder I feel when I think of all the fish that silently slide by, invisible to me on their upstream migration. These magnificent world traveler's head upriver, Fall Chinook, Spring Chinook, Coho, Winter Steelhead and Summer Steelhead. Many of the steelhead will eventually find the confluence of the North Umpqua and choose to follow its flows many more miles upstream. Some will eat a properly presented fly being fished by friends and colleagues in pools like the "Boat", "Williams Creek", "Susan Creek" or "Circle H Smooth's".
Some of these fish will travel even further up-river to pools like "Charcoal Point" or "Upper Boulder". By now the steelhead have made their way more than 120 miles above the water gliding past my cabin. Yet every fish we see spawning on these upper river gravel tailout's, or bring to hand after eating our swung flies has swam past my cabin.
The idea that EVERY steelhead that my friends like Frank Moore, David Wong, Kurt Brickner, Todd Hirano, Craig Coover, Keith Tymchuck, Tony Torrence, or brothers Clay and Ty Holloway have caught in the upper basin - has swam within two hundred yards of me while I'm on the lower river.
Sometimes its just a little hard to get my brain around. That's all.