Against the Current
By Hannah Sohl with additions by Stuart Warren
Beulah Pro Staff member Hannah Sohl, a Southern Oregonian, has just embarked on a year long journey around the world studying migratory fish and the cultures and communities that depend on them. She is a 2011 Watson Scholarship recipient. You can read about her travels at conversationswithwater.wordpress.com. Here is a little about her project:
About a year ago I saw a poster in the hall of the college I was attending that may very well have changed the course of my life. The poster was of a young man staring off into the distance at a large snow capped mountain with bold writing at the bottom that said something along the lines of “What will your adventure be?” At the top of the poster were some smaller pictures with captions such as
“Clowning circuits and miming” and the one that really caught my eye which said, “Artisan fishing communities in a culture of change” and listed a couple of far off places such as Morocco and Italy. The poster was advertising a yearlong fellowship opportunity to spend 12 months outside of the United States studying one subject that you are passionate about. My mind started racing. What? Someone will give me money to study my passions all over the world? And someone did one about fish? For the next few months I almost obsessively returned to this semi-out of the way hallway to stare at this poster and wonder what I was really passionate about and how in the world I was going to get this fellowship. I brainstormed for hours about my sociology major, my love of field biology, my childhood in Oregon, fishing, music, conservation, and numerous things in-between. I finally realized that the one constant that brings all of the things that I care about together is rivers, and the things that really connect rivers to people are fish.
So I started to put together a proposal to travel to some of the world’s most incredible rivers and fishing cultures to study the relationships that have evolved over generations between fish runs and the humans that live along river banks. I researched many different areas of the world and different types of fish and finally decided on seven countries including Canada, Brazil, and Laos and with fish as varied as steelhead, catfish, and shad.
I ended up receiving the award and kick off my studies this week.
Throughout the year I will be interviewing guides, scientists, fishermen, activists, community leaders, policy makers, and many others about their rivers and fish, and getting in some serious fishing along the way. Some of the areas that I will be visiting have strong runs, while in others the runs have been decimated by over fishing, pollution and dams. Each river that I will visit has a unique story and culture that is or has been impacted by fish. While each region will be very different, perhaps there will be some similar lessons that can be learned from watershed to watershed.
I will be documenting my experiences though podcasts and photos which you can follow on my BLOG.
First stop: salmon and steelhead in Northern British Columbia.
Hannah is traveling with a few Beulah Fly Rods; a Platinum 12’4” 8 weight Spey and a Blue Water 8/9. After all you can’t really get a feel for the fishing culture without doing a little fishing yourself. More on Hannah’s adventures to come!