Remember those movies they used to force us to watch in high school health classes, with gory images of the consequences that come with tobacco and alcohol abuse. Whether it was images of tumors or alcohol-related accident scenes, these images were used as scare tactics to keep our youth on the straight and narrow.
While much more enjoyable than any of the videos I mentioned above, "Rivers from a Lost Coast" ($29.95, by Skinny Fist Productions) reminds of me of one of those sad tales and what happens to favorite fisheries after years of abuse.
In fact, after watching the documentary on the stories steelhead and salmon fisheries of yesteryear in Northern California, I propose all first-time anglers in California should be required to watch this film before getting their fishing license.
"Rivers from a Lost Coast" is not only a great history lesson for newcomers or young anglers who are unfamiliar with Northern California's fly fishing history, it's also a sad look at what can happen to our prized watersheds when they're exploited and abused.
Northern California's great salmon and steelhead waters, for example, started to bottom out by the 1970s, possibly even earlier.
In fact, the line of the movie, in my eyes, was "by the 60s, the golden years of the coast had passed."
Overfishing, both by recreational (fresh and saltwater) and commercial fishermen (saltwater), logging, flooding and then damming all created the perfect storm for once legendary fisheries like the Russian River.
"We thought it would be forever," California angler Tooch Colombo said during the film, noting the mindset of anglers fishing what appeared to be never-ending salmon and steelhead runs in the 1930s and '40s.
The good news being that California is trying to turn things around, with conservation efforts, state programs, organizations and rules and regulations geared toward returning the state's watersheds back to some state of normality. The damage will never be undone, but we've at least identified the problem and are taking steps to help rectify the harm inflicted on California's great waterways … not to mention great waters across the world that are undergoing similar struggles.
Because as the tagline on riversofalostcoast.com notes, "You'll never know what we've lost, unless you know what we had."
For more, visit riversofalostcoast.com.