Elwha, be free.

In 1909, 100 pound chinook salmon spawned here amidst the lush ferns and old growth log jams of Glines canyon—13 miles from the ocean in Olympic National Park’s Elwha river. Salmon runs 400,000 strong were not uncommon here. In 1910 the first dam was completed downstream, and the Elwha’s fate was sealed along with many other rivers in the Pacific northwest. Electricity was in high demand, and it was delivered at the expense of many thriving river ecosystems. 

99 years later, the sound of an excavator-mounted jack hammer reverberates off the 210 foot Glines Canyon Dam as crews begin the painstaking process of chipping away at its towering, aging facade. The high pitched metallic sound of the steel hammer against the concrete replaced what would typically be a low rumble from antique turbines in the powerhouse just across the river. 20 years in the making—this historic moment marks the beginning of the largest dam removal project in history.

As the machine nibbled away the first bites of Glines Canyon Dam—a complicated, invitation-only, overly secured celebration began downstream. Various politicians including Washington’s Governor and the Secretary of the Interior gathered to kiss each other’s asses and congratulate the Lower Klallum Tribe for winning a battle to help regain their identity.

The most poignant and stirring moment of the gathering wasn’t delivered by a thoughtful speech or a native american song. As the crowd found their seats, a stunning sight was quietly revealed below the Elwha dam in the spillway. 73 Chinook salmon were circling a rocky, emerald green pool—making regular curious and confused passes by the face of the dam. It’s been 99 years since these fish lost 70 miles of habitat, yet they are still trying to go home. I don’t think anyone could gaze down into that pool Saturday and not be moved by what they saw. That image was infinitely more profound than any word spoken that day.  [bk]

 

 

Klamath

The dam tour continues as Travis and I plow through the Pacific Northwest leaving no one safe from an interview and certainly no concrete wall un-filmed. The Copco 1, [pictured above] is one of four dams that choke California’s Klamath river. In 2010, tree huggers, Native Americans, lip rippers and farmers managed to reach a historic compromise to share water between fish habitat and farms across Oregon and California and remove all four dams as early as 2020. It’s not a sealed deal—but the momentum is certainly building. If the Klamath is set free, it would just so happen to be largest river restoration effort in American history—kind of a big deal.

Huge thanks to the ranch owners who let us use their land to access Copco. [bk]

Meet Dennis…

Slowly but surely, the faces and stories of this dam removal movement are starting to reveal themselves. Dennis Brower has tended to the Condit Dam on Washington’s White Salmon River for thirty years. His house, a stone’s throw away from the powerhouse is where he raised his children. When asked what this day will mean to him, [the day he powers down the generators, forever] he paused for a while and looked up into the old trees that surround the company house he pays $20 a month for. “It’s really sad” said Brower.

The destruction of PacifiCorp’s aging and somewhat inefficient Condit Dam will hopefully revitalize miles of cold water spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead, and open up a stunning stretch of water for river nerds to float. The original design actually had fish ladders which were twice destroyed by floods shortly after the dam’s completion. The cost to build a new fish passage was considerably more than the cost of removing the dam.

The 98 year old Condit is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an engineering and architecture landmark—it will be decommissioned and systematically taken down this fall.

Interesting sh*t: The Condit powerhouse supposedly [on average] generates a comparable amount of power to 5-10 big-ass windmills. [bk]

 

FELT SOUL MEDIA IS DEAD

Not really—we just forgot to update the blog for two years because we’ve been a tad self conscious about making marketing documentaries. There’s really NOTHING wrong with marketing documentaries, we just prefer long term projects.

Just a quick catch up on what happened in the last two years: Eastern Rises, despite my forecast of total suckage, didn’t suck I guess. It’s been one of the best reviewed fly fishing films that we’re aware of—and it did surprisingly well on the film festival scene. I think winning “Best Mountain Sport Film” at the Banff Film Festival was kind of a big deal, considering that category had traditionally been dominated by healthy budgeted skiing, climbing and biking films. It was pretty dang exciting to break down that barrier for the sport of fly fishing.

Travis married this lovely chick Melissa, and I was his best man. I’m still surprised he picked me, but I was honored. We went back to Baja to chase roosters for Travis’s bachelor party. Frank proved that he is the best rental car rally racer of all time, and I caught my first rooster on the last day after Travis accused me of “not trying hard enough.” Instead of using my anger to beat him with an empty tequila bottle—I channeled it into my fly rod. I had actually given up that day, and was taking my clothes off to go swimming… and of course here comes my fish. I was half naked in the photos, but at least I got it done, and Frank [Smethurst] looked like a proud father when he helped me land it.

Despite our total lack of social media skills, we’ve still been fairly busy. Well, to be honest… Travis has been busy. I personally like to work in “spurts.” If that big-ass geyser in Yellowstone only went off once a day, and occasionally only once a month—that would be equivalent to my productivity in the last two years. We’ve worked on short films for The Rainforest Alliance, The Telluride Tourism Board, Nextel, Hawaii Airlines, Scott Fly Rod Company. I’ve also been filming for Suzan Beraza’s new flick “Uranium Drive In.” Suzan and her crew is best known for their film “Bag It” which has been creating massive change in people’s thinking about plastic bag use all over the world.

Currently we’re in northern British Columbia working on our new film, “Amend.” Travis hasn’t embraced the working title yet… but I figured I’d just put it out there to see what people thought.

Amend: [1] to change for the better; improve: to amend one’s ways [2] to remove or correct faults; rectify

The film is about what appears to be nation-wide movement behind the removal of dams and the push to restore spawning grounds for native sea run fish. Yup, fish again. More fish. That’s what we do. Some guy named Yvon who makes fancy clothes and his son-in-law Matt have asked us to make the film, and we’re going to do our best to tell another story that needs to be told. [bk]


Commercial + Documentary = Scott Fly Rod Behind the Scenes

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Jim Bartschi and Ian Crabtree at the Scott Fly Rod Co. asked us to make them a little video so folks could get a feel for where their favorite fishing tools come from. We’re calling this a “marketing documentary.” If a commercial and a documentary had a sultry, drunken one night stand—and the documentary slapped the commercial around a little bit and said dirty things like: “You’ve never had it like this before have you?” this is what you’d get, nine months later. [bk]

Smethurst Successfully Spawns

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It’s a proud day at Felt Soul headquarters as we welcome Mallory Dolores Smethurst [the little girl at the bottom left who isn't crying] to the team. She’s 5 days old now and according to Frank “she’s already double hauling in her crib and scanning the horizon for fish.” It seems like yesterday when Frank was pale as a ghost and scared shitless when he found out what he’d done, but we all knew he’d make an incredible father. Frank, Carol, we love you and we’re so happy for you.

The gift that keeps on giving…

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It was starting to feel like a never-ending awkward moment… 
A situation you walked into carelessly without consideration of how you’d escape. I wanted to design the Red Gold DVD myself, but if there’s anything I’m slower at than editing it’s design. I’m convinced Travis had dreamed of killing me in my sleep with an icicle with one hand while texting a professional designer with the other. “It’s done, you may begin the design” he would text. I made the mistake of telling Travis that I wasn’t positive the play button in the DVD menu would actually function… [Apple's DVD Studio Pro was created by Satan under the label "unintuitive torture device"] I didn’t realize the impact my concern about the play button would make on Travis. I don’t think he slept well for a month, and I’m pretty sure his girlfriend didn’t get any foot rubs during this anxiety ridden time.
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When the 5,000 DVD’s arrived by semi in Denver, we quietly off-loaded the boxes into Travis’s garage and didn’t speak until a the first DVD was loaded into the player. While the menu loaded, I gritted my teeth and rubbed my forehead almost anticipating a headache. Travis looked pale and prepared for disappointment as he glanced at the remote for the play button. Thank fuck, it played. It took a full two years for us to get to this point… a man-hug happened… Travis said I could be his friend again and we congratulated each other on a job well done. This is where you’d click to order a DVD if you like that sort of thing: www.feltsoulmedia.com/products

What’s up with Pebble? How can I help?

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—The latest update from Lauren Oakes [Red Gold co-producer]

In addition to all the inquiries we get about where one can acquire the soundtrack, my inbox is flooded every day with emails that go like this: “I saw Red Gold… It made me cry [men, women, children all write this]…What’s going on with Pebble right now and can I help?”  Of course the answer is Yes! Yes! Yes!

On November 14, 2008, Ben and I stood before 500 people at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to show Red Gold [what an honor].  On the very same day, just a block away from the theater in the Bureau of Land Management building, President’s Bush’s staff put out a Record of Decision for the Bristol Bay Area Management Plan.  It opened nearly 2 million acres of federal land surrounding the Pebble Site to mining exploration.  2 million acres.  So while citizens continue to battle development of the Pebble mine on Alaskan State land, we now face the worst – Pebble amidst a mining district in the heart of the world’s largest remaining sockeye salmon fishery.  When the Obama administration comes into office, our leaders of change will have 30 days to reverse this decision.

State Land. Federal Land. To me, the land classifications are borders drawn for management purposes.  But in reality Bristol Bay and its pristine waters, the abundant wild salmon runs, the life this watershed sustains are global resources we cannot replace.  We need more people standing up saying “No – not here, not this place.  Wrong location. A risk not worth taking.”

Support for gaining permanent legislative protection for the Bristol Bay watershed continues to grow.  The Trout Unlimited Alaska program is currently engaged in a number of projects to stop development of the Pebble Mine.  We are placing emphasis on necessary science research so we can understand more of the critical water and habitat issues.  We are also working with state and federal policymakers to support legislative protection, and we are leading a nationwide campaign to educate and engage salmon consumers on the values of wild salmon conservation and cuisine (www.whywild.org).  We continue to raise state, national, and international support for protecting this world-renowned watershed, a mosaic of unconfined rivers supporting nearly a 1/3 of our wild salmon supply.

Yes! You can help.

**** Write members of congress today and express you support for protecting the watershed from mining development.  Ask the new administration to keep BLM lands in Bristol Bay closed to mining.

*** Donate.  I hate this part about asking for money but it’s true;  to do more good work to protect Bristol Bay we need more financial support and that’s the simple reality they taught me here in non-profit world.  www.savebristolbay.org

** Host a Red Gold screening.  Contact Emily Long:  emily@feltsoulmedia.com.

* When you’re at the grocery, or at your favorite restaurant… please request wild salmon. You’ll be supporting sustainable, well-managed fisheries and increasing the demand for what Bristol Bay is famous for. Avoid the farmed stuff unless you have a thing for artificially colored dinner.

And then lastly I’d like just like to thank the people who believed in this project, Ben and Travis for asking questions and listening, and then all those who understand there are still some places left on this planet we must protect.   Please go flood the email boxes of your congressman and tell them they have a chance to save one of our last great salmon runs.    – Lauren (loakes@tu.org)

It’s official, Red Gold doesn’t suck.

A Ben & Travis man-hug ensues as Red Gold recieves a standing ovation at it's premiere.

A Ben & Travis man-hug ensues as Red Gold receives a standing ovation at it's premiere. Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm

Approximately a billion people lined up [see photo below] outside Telluride Colorado’s Michael D. Palm Theater for the premiere of Red Gold, a venue that seats only 600. Needless to say, hundreds were turned away. With the quarter million dollar HD projector warming up in the booth, Mountainfilm’s festival security staff opened the doors and began confiscating weapons and real estate licenses. My eyes widened the moment the film filled the screen. Seeing it bigger than life amongst a standing room only crowd was the moment I had tossed and turned over for months. I gave Travis a squeeze on the leg that probably summed up about twenty emotions in one gesture. A solid year of our work had been compressed into 54 minutes. Short of a freak projector explosion, it was finally time for some hot Red Gold action.

The line of 78,000 wrapped from the theater around the soccer field and up Colorado Ave. across from the grocery store. Photo Courtesy of Mountainfilm

A line a billion strong wrapped from the theater around the soccer field and up Colorado Ave. across from the grocery store. Photo Courtesy of Mountainfilm

To see a crowd of that size sit still, for that long, without so much as a fidget and gaze upon what you’ve poured your heart into was a humbling experience. When the credits rolled the applause began. It felt like it lasted forever. Festival Director David Holbrooke invited Travis and I onto stage after the last credit had passed and something happened that I didn’t anticipate at all. My heart broke as I walked down the dimly lit aisle with Travis and realized every person in the theater was on their feet. A standing ovation with an energy that left me trembling. I held my hand against my eyes, trying to hold back the tears and peeked through my fingers at the crowd. My arms and hands were tingling. This was one of those moments that will probably define my life I think. No matter what happens next I’ll always have this memory. This was the best night of my life. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, I remembered that my Dad was there.

The Audience Choice Award ballots didn't have to be counted because the Red Gold pile was kinda bigger than the others.

The Audience Choice Award ballots didn't have to be counted because the Red Gold pile was kinda bigger than the others. Photo by Nick Wolcott

Two days later, after another sold-out showing, Red Gold won the Mountainfilm Festival’s Audience Choice Award and the Festival Directors Award. I hadn’t been thinking about what I’d say if we actually won something, so my portion of the acceptance speech was a gaping hole of things not said. All I remember saying was that Red Gold was the most important thing I’ve ever done. I guess that sums it up well enough. The Telluride Mountainfilm Festival is the reason I picked up a video camera and started editing in the first place. The impassioned people who gather here and share the work they create is the single most inspirational thing I can imagine. I used to be a “slide projector bitch” for Mountainfilm so I could get a free pass and meet my hero still photographers. For 13 years Mountainfilm has drilled into my head how powerful photographs and documentaries can be. Winning those awards has blown my mind. I really can’t believe they’re sitting here in my room.

Remembering Ben’s cat

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Yes, our Felt Soul T-Shirt model is single and she prefers guys who aren’t nice.

I have a crap load of Felt Soul news to report. First off, we made T-shirts. They’re inspired by and dedicated to my dead kitty “Mila.” She was gray, adorable and enjoyed eating mice slowly while they were still alive and spraying piss on down jackets and comforters. My roommates were not fond of her due to the overwhelming stench of urine on their beds. One roommate whom I won’t mention by name [Drew Ludwig] drop- kicked her out of his loft. She recovered, but continued to only use her litter box for going number two. Another roommate named Ryan Bonneau www.secretsofflyfishing.com had planned on removing her tail for use as a Taimen stimulator pattern in Mongolia. Turns out she died of a severe kidney infection and couldn’t help peeing where she slept. The poor thing didn’t know what she was doing wrong. I had to give her an IV to hydrate her for the final days of her life and Ryan ended up burying her while I was out of town. One sec, I have to wipe the tears off my keyboard… ok, I’m good now. So that’s the story of Felt Soul’s first T-shirt. We made a small batch to see if anyone would actually buy one, and they’re on the website www.feltsoulmedia.com under “The Merch.”

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This is Fly’s design is edgy, and makes us feel more important than we are.

“This is Fly” http://www.thisisfly.com/?l=698 , a web site entirely too steezy for the sport of fly fishing has honored us with another article on what we’re up to. They asked me to write the intro [my first ever published writing I warn you] and Travis fielded their questions about our Red Gold project toward the end. You can find our story “Giving a Voice to the People of Bristol Bay” on page 63. I think This is Fly is the future of magazines. As wonderful as it is to have something tangible that you can flip through and then leave in the bathroom for six months, it just seems wasteful. Thisis the link to our previous story: http://www.thisisfly.com/?l=169

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To our utter disbelief, The New York Times asked Travis and I to produce a short profile on the sport of Skier Cross for their website during ESPN’s Winter X-Games. After jumping up and down and high-fiving like a couple cheerleaders on Ritalin we said “yeah, sure… maybe we could squeeze that in if you’re lucky.” We’ve never filmed or edited on deadline before, so it was a brutal shock to our natural instinct to procrastinate. ESPN only allowed us to film during a couple hours of practice so getting all the shots we needed from a mile-long course was challenging. We finished filming on a Friday afternoon and didn’t wrap the editing until 9am on Saturday. With no sleep and enough Red Bull to implode a rhinoceros heart we had pulled it off. The short was supposed to be centered around Daron Rahlves, the most decorated alpine downhill skier in American history but he didn’t give us much to work with on camera. He still has a decent role thankfully because he went on to take the gold medal thus making our piece more newsworthy. Who knows if we’ll ever hear from the Times again, but either way it was a huge honor for Felt Soul. Here’s the link if you want to take a gander. It’s 4 minutes long and starts with an annoying commercial that you can’t skip. http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story=7ebb9df591d5be842923e600a7afda2ed8bee168