Rivers are sacred and none more so than those that have the holy trinity of salmon, grizzly bears and steelhead. This book, a collection of tales on fishing, companionship and the power of dreams, is about one of those special rivers.
The Babine spills out of a long lake with the same name in central British Columbia, north of the small town of Smithers. It cuts a ragged arc through the remnants of a once great forest, gathering flow from water pouring off the Sicintine and Atna mountain ranges, before turning south to join the great Skeena River system, which ties it to the Pacific.
The mighty Skeena, second in Canada only to the Fraser in terms of salmon production, is the pathway the migratory fishes follow as they return from their epic journeys across the north Pacific. If they make it through the ocean fisheries, past the fleet of commercial boats that mass in the estuary to strike at them, and then run the gauntlet of sports and native fishermen in the main river, they eventually enter the mouth of the Babine. Here they pass into they special place-one of the few watersheds left anywhere in the Pacific Northwest that has not been stripped of timber to the riverbanks.
Because of the work of some of those whose writing appears in this book, a narrow corridor of forest shelters the Babine. As flows between those green, cathedral walls, carrying the salmonit and steelhead back to their natal waters and giving tantalizing life to the flies cast by fishermen, the river seems a blessed, protected place, a river that somehow, miraculously exists as it always did. But that dreamlike quality could easily be lost, for the strip of forest that buffers the river is precariously thin, as you will see if you look at satellite images. From that high perspective one can see the ever-spreading network of resource roads that have fragmented what used to be a sweeping, old growth forest. The bone white patches left by clear cut operations are drawing perilously close to the Babine and there are fears that logging on tributaries could soon damage this holy place, by sending waves of silt to choke the spawning beds, or that new roads could destroy the wilderness atmosphere by providing uncontrolled access. Oil, gas, and mineral activity are constant threats-and there is always the danger that mismanagement of the commercial fishery at the mouth of the Skeena (where nets are set for more prolific stocks of salmon) could decimate the Babine's incredible steelhead run.
Those who have contributed stories to this book know what a remarkable, fragile place the Babine is. Their love for the river, for the bears-and most especially for the steelhead-resonate in every tale.
The Babine, and the lodge that gave generations of anglers access to the sacred waters, come to life in these pages. There are some great fishing stories, but this is far more than a book about fishing. It's a book about what's important in life. It's a book about a beautiful, wild river and the dream that it can be saved as it is, forever.
The Babine is a place where the worlds of bears, salmon and steelhead flow together, entering the hearts of the men and women who make pilgrimages there.
Some of those who contributed to this book, or who are characters in its pages, have died and their ashes have been scattered on the waters of the Babine. But others have stepped up to take their place, not just wading the baptismal pools in search of the great steelhead, but also adding their voices to the struggle to save the river.
And after reading their stories you will want to join them.
The economic forces aligned against the Babine are great. Are the hearts of those who love the river greater? After turning these pages, I think you'll see that they are.
This is a sacred river and it cannot be lost.
It can be saved, but only if enough people care. After you've read this book press it into the hands of someone young. Tell them, "You should know about this place. Together we're going to save it."
—Mark Hume Vancouver, B.C.