Filmmaker Darryl Lai and I recently spent the afternoon in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument along the river bottoms of Jenny Creek with Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited’s chief scientist. Jack has fished this stretch since his boys were young. Now they’ve both got graduate degrees, with one of them going into fisheries science like his father, and the other tackling environmental issues with a law degree.
I’m guessing their lifelong interest in the natural world stems in no small part from the time they spent along this stretch of the creek.
Jack brought his dog Starker, named after one of conservationist Aldo Leopold’s children, along for the trip. Although the spaniel didn’t help track down any trout, he brought a great deal of energy along on our walk.
We were shooting a piece for Oregon State University. Jack graduated from OSU with a Ph.D. in fisheries sciences. He did his dissertation on a small species of fish found only in southeastern Oregon in the Alvord Desert. To this day he’s still considered a world expert on the fish.
The trip reminded me that it’s been over a year since I’ve fished, which is reprehensible and probably should be some sort of high crime. I felt the absence of my fly rod even though I was lugging an armload of camera gear. We asked Jack to cast a line simply for the camera, what with Starker plunging into the stream and likely scarring off the local redband trout for a quarter mile in either direction. But even with the dog and the film crew, there’s a therapeutic, almost Zen-like aspect to fly casting.
We lifted the aerial rig and took some shots from above, and the fiery autumn beauty of the spot bordered on spectacle when viewed from above.
We encountered some trespass cattle while we were there, which caused Jack great concern. He worked to get national monument designation for this space, and cattle are no longer allowed on this stretch. The reprieve is to allow it to return to a more natural state.
If that can happen, maybe another family of conservationists can be raised along the banks of Jenny Creek. The bullet casings and broken beer bottles near the parking turnout, along with graffiti on a boulder, left an ominous note, but one can only hope. When looking at the dusty fall brushstrokes of brown, gold and red and the intense quiet beyond a gentle burble of creek flow, hope is definitely still alive and well in the little valley.