The Umpqua River

It’s called Amgutsuish by the Shasta and Yagala in native Takelma. The main stem and forks always have had this name and no meaning is known. She flows out of the Thielsen/Crater Lake drainage, which also feeds her sister, the Rogue, to the south. A haven for sportsman around the world, her waters hold some of the best runs of steelhead, salmon, and cutthroat in the lower forty-eight. Her surrounding high country ridges and valleys are home to big game elk, deer, bear, and cougar. Grouse, pheasant, and turkey inhabit her rolling oak and grasslands to the West.

I go every year—in September, after parents are back at work and kids back in school. The water is lower, the fish a bit hungrier, and the pace more suitable to a five-weight and a box of caddis and stimulators. I’m never disappointed and rarely want to leave for home.

When the storms rolled off the Cascades Saturday night, I watched the lightning silhouette a stand of tall firs from my chair in front of the campfire. “So much good energy,” I thought. Another log on the coals; another sip of brew. If there is a Promise Land, then the “Ump” must surely be its sweet back corner.


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