It has been three years since we moved to the Cariboo District of BC. During that time, there have been a few forays into the area around where we live, but never enough...
Busy with renovations and building, we have not had as much time as we might have wished for sightseeing. But on a day when Sun shone strong and the Leaves on the Trees were beginning to turn gold, I had an intense craving to drive...just drive anywhere...it didn't matter.
And so we did.
We've driven to the little village of Horsefly once before, in the middle of Winter. There were large, blank, white spaces, all covered with Snow and Ice, then. This time, there were large Fields and small Lakes. There were herds of Cattle and Horses. And colour...there was so much Autumn colour!
It's only about a 45 minute drive to the village of Horsefly from our place. Horsefly is well known for the artists who live in the area, along with ranchers and loggers. There are about 1000 inhabitants. But my primary purpose in going to Horsefly was to see the spawning Sockeye Salmon.
There was an unprecedented huge run of Sockeye this year. Fishermen took extremely large hauls at the mouth of the Fraser River for a period of time set by the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Fish who managed to navigate their way through the fishing nets travelled up the Fraser River to their tributary spawning grounds. The Horsefly River spawning grounds are quite well known; after our visit, I realize why.
We stopped by the little, one car bridge that crosses the River. How lovely it was...as we stood there watching Salmon resting in the shallows, a Horse from a neighbouring farm wandered down for a drink from the cold, clear Waters. It was truly idyllic...I could easily have stood there by the Water for hours...
I wanted to see the provincial park at Horsefly Lake, so we drove on. It was not far before we came to the spawning channel and I knew we had to stop. Spawning Salmon remind me of my childhood; I grew up not far from the Fish ladders built in the River of my youth...Stamp Falls. Every Autumn I would find my way to the ladders just to see the brave, doomed Fish who fought their way up the Falls.
I had no idea how emotional I would become when I saw that channel loaded with reddish Sockeye which, through Sun and Water, shone golden. How beautiful they were!...even though they'd been battered and beaten by Rocks and Boulders as they fought their way up the Fraser River...still, I would swear at that moment, there was nothing more stunning than those Fish.
We spoke with a gentleman who told us only yesterday, there were enough Fish in the spawning channel that he could easily have walked across their backs to get to the other side. A man who has lived in the area for years, he said he had never seen anything like it.
As I snap photos here and there, over and over again, I idly wonder, once again, why there is such a huge Salmon run this year. Last year, fishing was closed to commercial fisherman because of lack of Fish...and this year, there is an unexpectedly enormous run? It appears no one really knows why, although there are many theories...
We walk a short distance up the small causeway towards the small pool at the end of it, where a pipe connected to the Horsefly River bubbles up. The Salmon, accustomed to fighting their way up a River, are confused...they are not used to going with the flow. I want to tell them, when they throw their bodies against the rubber, protective mat which stops them from congregating at the pipe area...I want to tell them how much easier it is, really, to go with the flow.
The Sockeye, some of them extremely large, were insistent on beating their bodies a little more. I imagine them thinking...How can anything in life be this easy?
But finally, they accept that, right now, life is a little less difficult; they reverse their course and follow that easy causeway back to the channel and then further on to their particular spawning grounds. I shake my head as I wonder at the marvels of it all. I am moved beyond words...
Along the River, corpses of Salmon who lost their fight to spawn and procreate litter the shore. Signs are posted warning of Bear, Cougar and other predators who show up for an easy meal or two, at any time of day.
It is a long and difficult journey Salmon must undertake at the end of their lives. It is filled with hazards. And yet, the call is unbelievably (to this human) strong to return home, to the clear, fresh waters of their youth.
And the colour of the spawning Salmon is unbelievable, as well. A beautiful Fish even when young, they become more so...Sunlight bouncing off those wriggling orange and red bodies make me think of Firelight...a dying Fire, as it turns out.
It is sad and stunning, all at the same time, the sight of these Fish returning home, battered and beaten, some of them.
There is a lesson in this for me, somewhere. I feel it, yet can't quite grasp it.
There was nothing that could beat the sight of the Sockeye in the little Spawning channel; we turned around and returned home, ourselves.
And as I watched the Firelight later that night, I was once again reminded of the fight of the Salmon...not a fight to save it's life, but a fight to procreate. And the reward is...death.
I'm glad the urge to drive somewhere...anywhere...overtakes me, once in awhile...