Skeena (Heritage/Amato $23.95)
Rob Brown's Skeena (Heritage/Amato $23.95) is the history of one man's love for a great living river. Brown, who lives near the Skeena in Terrace, can be fairly described as a sometime school teacher and a full time angler.
He has explored the well known angling waters (Lakelse, Zymoetz, Kitsumkalum) and the many lesser rivers and lakes that become the purview of the adventurous local inhabitant. We are often invited to appreciate the Skeena with Brown's many friends of the lower Skeena Valley, men for whom wilderness is clearly the elixir of life.
“The morning mists climbed the mountains,” he writes, describing a trip up the Gitnadoix River, “We fished with determination and success.
“The earth warmed up. Cornices cracked, then broke free, kick starting avalanches. By noon the valley had opened its eyes. Mike pointed out places where hurricane force winds created by the momentum of large slides had torn the tops of trees.
“Occasionally a giant avalanche will leap across the valley leaving a barrier in its wake. On the highest banks deposits of debris marked the height of the flood waters that followed the collapse of one of those dams of rock, snow, ice and trees.”
In Skeena there are also moments of fear as Brown describes meeting an enormous grizzly who is working his way into a trout slough on the River of Clams. “His head was enormous, much larger than I'd thought. We'd been close a few times, though it was never our intention to be.”
On a logging road into the Green River, Brown and his friend Webb come upon a bizarre outdoor recreation, a logging slash turned into a 'killing field'. A posted sign “North Coast War Games” marks the playground of would be soldiers at war. You can envision, as Brown does, the camouflage clad men shooting each other with paint filled bullets.
And, yes, there are some big fish caught. You sense that steelhead, dollies, cutthroats, and even those great spring salmon for which the Skeena is known, are bonuses to the sights and thrills of exploring a wonderland of natural beauty and irrepressible forces.
Skeena is not a travel guide in the usual sense. The real strength of Skeena is in the writing, and in the colour photography found throughout the book. Brown does provide some useful fly patterns, almost as an appendix, but mainly the reader is captivated by Brown's passion for these precious water courses and by the characters who people them.