Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Drive to Horsefly

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...


  1. That's a long swim. The urge is so strong. It's hard to imagine how many started the journey but didn't make it. - Margy

  2. What a beautiful description of some of the mysteries of nature. It's always puzzling why some years there is a bumper crop of salmon and some years so few. And the greater mystery of why the salmon don't just enjoy their golden years the way humans do. :)

  3. Horsefly? The Chamber of Commerce needs to work on that, don't you think. Maybe Salmon Heaven would be a good replacement.

    I enjoyed your photos and reading about your adventure.

  4. Wonderful post Marion, you had a grand adventure. Thank you for the stunning photos.

  5. Anonymous10:15 p.m.

    So beautiful! Marion, thanks for posting these photos. I have heard about the miracle of the salmon and to see these images, it just makes my heart very glad and grateful for the blessings of nature.

  6. Love the pictures Marion, what an experience for you! The colours alone are so vivid and beautiful. You're very lucky to live somewhere that beautiful I can tell you. xx

  7. What a beautiful place you live, Marion! I love the Salmon analogy and the amazing photos. I can totally relate. (What a long, strange trip it's been. LOL!)

    Thanks for sharing a piece of your world with us. Blessings!!

  8. Dear Marion,

    What a fascinating post!
    I'm thinking that the reward for the salmons isn't death but rather making sure the species lives on. We all make sacrifices and this is the ultimate one.

    What amazing photos! I can see what that local man meant when he said he could step on the backs of the salmon to cross the river.

    I'm glad this trip was magical for you, and spiritual and healing.

    Thank you for sharing ;)


  9. I've never seen anything like this - how amazing this is. You do live in such a gorgeous place, and I'm also glad that you take road trips and have your trusty camera along.

    There is a message in the salmon's travel - I don't quite get it either but it's worth thinking about.

    thanks - and have a lovely day

  10. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I've often thought of death as the "Big Sleep" and no one earns it as much as spawning salmon. On the other hand, maybe they take on some other, less strenuous form of life once they've shed their fish selves...

  11. First of all, I want to apologize for the late replies. I've had a sinus infection and my head feels as if it's been taking a sojourn amongst the clouds...

    Powell River Books,

    I'm sure there must be spawning creeks and rivers at Powell River, Margy? I haven't seen so many happy fisherman on TV after the run was closed to fishing for decades! I guess salmon have their own minds after all...nobody knew the run was this big until it was here.


    Yes. It would have been great to go out and see salmon sitting in rocking chairs with a pipe and newspaper, their fins up.I have a feeling though, that the female salmon would still have been swimming around, looking for something to keep her busy...


    Although I haven't read up on it, it was probably a miner who gave the name of Horsefly to the village. And there ARE horseflies. And with that name, nobody ever forgets the town or the bite they might have received while there!


    Thank you. I thought of you and your art when I looked at the colours of the salmon. What beautiful creatures they are!

  12. Miruh,

    My heart was full that day as well. I wish the photos had come out better, I wish I could have been taking underwater photos. This run has been going on forever, over and over again each season. It's mind-boggling. To see these screaming red fish fight their way up and over falls, up strong rivers, over any obstacle is so very, very awe-inspiring!


    The photos were taken through the car window. I'm amazed they even worked...Graham's not one to stop the car on a whim, unless I yell out Stop and so...

    We missed the colours of Autumn by about a week or two. The aspens and poplars and birches almost break my heart with their bright yellow beauty...everything shines golden in the sun right now.


    No kidding it's been a long strange trip...can you imagine if humans had to do a journey like this at the end of their lives? I wonder what would drive us, since procreation, at the age of eighty and over, is not so sure. So the seeking would have to be unbelievably important, for me to wander out in search of a previous home, just before death found me! Heh!

  13. Studio Lolo,

    For sure, procreation is a reward. But, in my mind, so is death. I love my life and will live it to the fullest, but when death arrives, after a good long life, I think of it as a reward, as going someplace very similar to earth, but knowing and understanding a little more about life after this incarnation than before.

    I've got those funny ideas, lolo, heeheehee! Thanks for visiting and understanding what a spiritual time this was for me!


    I know, I can't quite grasp the message I was receiving, either. It's there, just at the back of my mind, to come to the fore when there's no need for it!

    I need to get a new camera; mine becomes cloudy for no good reason every once in awhile. When you can't trust your camera, it's time for a new one, I figure!


    Thank you. You get it every time...since I believe we are all connected, anything that happens to the salmon, or the spider, or that snake will also happen to me, or something very similar.

    The salmon fight so hard to do this thing...they look quite battered by the time they spawn, their flesh coming off in ribbons, and gouges everywhere. Once their souls are freed, I know their reward will be golden in death.

  14. Marion, this is such a wonderful post. It truly has been a remarkable year for the salmon. We too have had record runs of pink and coho but the Haida along with other first nations are warning about being too confident that the huge runs are returning.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and your part of the world.
    The cabin is getting a true test today as the winds are gusting up to 120 kph!

  15. Thank you, Marion, for the nudge in your direction. I've been a bit off this week and am glad to have not missed this.

    The gathering of the fish reminds me of the much smaller gathering of orange koi that I witnessed at one of the university lakes a few years ago. What a wondrous experience seeing them come up from the safety of the depth of the lake to gather in the shallowest areas to spawn. Risky indeed considering the number of birds on the lake.

    My visit to Horsefly was enjoyable. I would have liked seeing more pictures at the website. Considering the number of artists who live there, I hoped to see more but the surroundings are gorgeous.

    I'm intrigued by the Caribou district of B.C. and would love to actually see it. It looks so peaceful.

  16. Marion, Thank you for sharing your fantastic journey to a place I now know a little more about. Your thought-provoking flow of words and pictures express the paradoxes in life with beautiful sincerity. :)

  17. wow! that is truly amazing! so many of them and the colour is magnificent. what a wonderful trip you had, i would really love to see that horse drinking by the river.
    calmed me a little after reading you post marion. thanks for you kind words over at my blog. i am a little nervous and excited and my tummy's been squirming into a knot. i had not slept well for couple of days now, just could not believe it. LOL! and oh yes, the shift is crazy and manifestation is in super speed! goodness me! i just have to keep reminding myself to catch my breath :D

    loves to you marion

  18. Carolyn,

    I have been thinking of you with the wild storms hitting your area. We have had some of the residual wind, but little rain so far, although we are slated to have some today. The wind was unbelievably strong...I heard you gusted up to 155K. Wow!

    I hope your little dune cabin came through just fine.


    You'll just have to come up for a visit! Horsefly has many celebrations throughout the year showcasing their artists.

    What a sight it must have been to see the koi. Wow, I love those fish. I had some in a small pond in a previous home and they did very well. They loved to eat worms right out of my hand...they were so tame. I miss them.

    I'm sorry it's been a tough time for your lately, Annie, and hope things are better now.

    aka Penelope,

    Thank you for visiting! The central Interior is a beautiful, vast area that I cannot seem to capture with my camera...the land is so wide and large photos just don't show that.

    I keep trying, however!


    I surely hope you blog about this exciting event, or else email me! I'm excited for you and I don't even know what it is, lol.

    I'm glad the mondo beyondo...the dreaming big...brought you here. How wonderful!


  19. Interesting post. I was thinking about the difference between my massive city of gold (Johannesburg) and Horsefly who were both towns where the first gold in the country was found. I am sure Horsefly is far more pleasant to live in, looks very pretty.

    Always get a bit sad when I think about wild salmon but glad to hear that they are not dying out and something has boosted their numbers this year. could it be all the pollution and the higher temperatures in the sea is driving them home quicker?

  20. Dear Marion,
    What a lovely post.
    Thank you,

  21. Hi Marion,

    Thanks for your comments. I just decided to have a break but I've started back up again. Those salmon are an awesome sight and to see them "live " must be amazing. Yes you could walk across their backs to the other side. I have only seen this on TV documentaries, when the bears use the salmon runs to feed up for their winter hibernation. Its good to get out and explore your area,especially as its so beautiful. Take care. Dave

  22. Jackie,

    That's a good question. Carolyn also stated the First Nation's perspective on the large salmon run.I believe the same. But time will tell, because so far, nobody really knows.

    The weather has been really strange as well...perhaps the two are linked.

    The Cariboo is beautiful, Jackie...a vast, far-flung area in the near centre of BC. It is a photographer's dream...as long as their camera worked well, heh!

    The gold rush trail goes right beside our house...it is easy to go back in time and imagine the hardships a prospector would face, coming to this extreme land.


    No, thank YOU for taking the time and trouble it took for you to read this post!


    So good to see you back, Dave...I've missed my journeys through Wales through your stunning photography.

    I hope you've been doing plenty of bicycle riding around your new place. Exploring is something I really enjoy. I am constantly amazed at the age of the things in your photos...The City of Williams Lake is only about 80 years old.

  23. Marion, I've commented on this before, but it looks like maybe you have some more photos. Is it a work in progress, would you say?

  24. Wonderful post, Marion. All the photos are beautiful, but the salmon pics are amazing. So glad you decided to take that drive.