Rivers of a Lost Coast
In the 1940's and 50s, California coastal fly fishing for the enigmatic steelhead was full of characters and days of plenty. By the early 80s however, the mystical rivers of the 'lost coast' such as the Eel, Russian and Smith were undergoing serious decline.
At the turn of the 20th Century, a handful of pioneers carried their fly rods into California’s remote north coast and gave birth to a culture that would revolutionize their sport. For a select few, steelhead fly fishing became an obsessive pursuit without compromise.
Leading the pack was the mythical, Bill Schaadt, an off-kilter angler famous for his ruthless pursuit to be ‘in the fish’. The new endeavor was ruled by a demanding, unspoken code, which made 'breaking in' almost as difficult as 'breaking out'.
By the early 1980s, the Golden State’s coastal fisheries found themselves caught in a spiraling decline. As California searched for its disappearing salmon and steelhead, these men foraged for their souls.
Using never before seen footage, vintage photos, archival headlines and exclusive interviews, Rivers of a Lost Coast shows a side of California most people never knew existed. Narrated by Tom Skerritt (A River Runs Through It - 1992), Rivers of a Lost Coast reminds us of the ever increasing importance of wild fish in wild rivers.
A refreshing change to the all-action fly fishing films of late, Rivers of a Lost Coast serves up a thoroughly interesting and absorbing slice of American fly fishing history centred on the steelhead and salmon anglers of the northern Californian coast of the 40s and 50s. With plenty of interviews with those who were there at the time, arhived reports plus some great old footage and photographs from the era, it is hard not to be blown away at the scale of the fishery at that time and long for those days to return. Many of those same anglers are now involved with various conservation efforts in the area focusing on restoring the fisheries and watersheds that suffered drastically through indiscriminate logging amongst other things.
A whole cast of characters are included and are included amongst the interviewees but the central story revolves around two names - Bill Schaadt and Ted Lindner.
"In the 1940s and ‘50s, an unpopulated California reigned as a sportsman’s paradise. While famous fly fishing names sprouted out of the Bay Area like wildflowers (Myron Gregory, Jack Horner, Phil Mirravelle, Buddy Tarantino, Jimmy Green), two of the sport’s most accomplished anglers lay nestled away on California’s remote north coast.
From the 1940s-90s, Bill Schaadt and Ted Lindner were two of the most successful and dedicated anglers fly fishing ever produced. With origins tied to the golden years of California’s Russian River, these close friends would eventually become bitter enemies."
Perhaps it was the location, a sign of the times or just the fever that the amazing fishing obviously induced but someof the stories told are so incredulous they have to be true - you couldn't make them up.
There is a quote on the back of the DVD box that I particularly like and which captures the essence of what Rivers of a Lost Coast attempts and in my view succeeds to share....
"... and the kid looks at you and says, how could there have been thousands of salmon here, you're just an old man exaggerating. And then I have to correct him, not thousands, tens of thousands." - Russell Chatham
All in all I really enjoyed watching this fascinating and well-told story. Would I watch it more than once? Well if I lived in northern California and this was my patch then I am sure I would, but as I don't I expect I would more likely be passing it around my fishing buddies for them to watch and enjoy. A great documentary chronicling the rise and fall of one of the worlds great fisheries - let's hope it can rise again.
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