Rivers of the Lost Coast was just issued on DVD, and all I can say is it’s about freakin’ time.
This intelligently made film offers a poignant (and often painful) look a the rise and fall of California’s and Oregon’s steelhead rivers – and weaves in a spellbinding story about some of fly fishing’s most iconic figures.
Fly fishing legends Bill Schaadt and Ted Lindner began the largely Post-WWII narrative as friends, but ultimately became sworn enemies. Whatever the reasons, the feud divided the nascent steelheading community – which wasn’t exactly an easy club to join.
In interview after interview, people describe the era’s steelhead & salmon runs, the decline in those runs, and how the unique breed of hardcore fly fishermen formed, split, and adapted.
Some didn’t adapt very well – either to diminishing fish populations or the growing crowds of fishermen – and therein lies the true genius of this movie.
“Extreme” characters like Bill Schaadt and Ted Lindner are normally the work of fiction writers, but they’re real – and they’re compelling enough to me that I watched the movie several times.
To sketch the characters, Rivers of a Lost Coast leans heavily on interviews with those who knew and fished with them (including Russell Chatham [read his lengthy Sports Illustrated piece on Schaadt here], Jim Adams, Lani Waller and others).
What emerges is an engrossing – if sometimes hard-to-comprehend – portrait of some of steelheading’s first truly extreme fly fishers.
Most interesting is the picture that emerges of Bill Schaadt, a revered (and often reviled) fly fisherman whose obsessive behavior included hiding his car & boat, and cutting the fly lines of others with razor blades tied in the bends of hooks.
With Chatham and others offering up revelation after revelation during their interviews, the movie flows beautifully – even as the precipitous decline of steelhead and salmon populations plays out (somewhat painfully) before our eyes.
The filmmakers have created something special – something worth a little of your time.
How much did I like Rivers of a Lost Coast? A friend asked me to summarize the film, I told him it’s the movie Ken Burns would have made if he was an obsessed steelheader.
See you at the picture show, Tom Chandler