I recently moved to British Columbia from the UK and have been dazzled by the beauty of this part of the world. I spent my summer working beside the Nahatlach river, a tributary of that brown behemoth, the Fraser. It is a valley with strong ties to First Nations groups and as the summer months ebbed away I felt an excitement that must have been felt for tens of thousands of years as the salmon started flinging themselves up the rapids. I was almost licking my lips even though I was purely observing these great creatures.

I started to feel the feeling that the bears, eagles and wolves must get too. The tingling sensation you get when there is food just there but still not within your grasp. It is addictive too, I was supposed to be working but I would find myself drifting over towards the river to look into the shallows at the purposeful crews of fish. Their singularity of focus makes them all the more intriguing. Huge rapids that I would certainly never swim down, let alone up, are ticked off as they move on to the next obstacle. Sometimes in groups, sometimes alone they move on.

As I drift with the thoughts of these creatures and all the things that have tried to kill them or catch them in their journey so far, I am aware that time is passing and I was supposed to be doing something more productive than daydreaming about the trials and tribulations of fish. Life carries on but I am now in the thrall of one half of BC’s two pillars of industry: fishing.

As the run really started to begin and bigger groups were moving I was back down beside the river. Fixing a water pump which will suck some of the water from this river and redistribute it across the resort in an attempt to protect this dry land from the dangers of fire. Down beside the water I lingered before pulling the chord and filling the air with the unnatural chug of a pump. As I stood there, with gasoline soaked into my hands, a group of salmon pushed on ruthlessly from one pool to the next. They move like special forces. Their lives have ceased to matter even to themselves. It is all about the survival of the species now.

Later that day, as the wind builds, huge plumes of smoke billow skywards from the Kookipi Creek fire. The fire has peaked and troughed since early July but this looks different. This is angry, black and orange. The river is seasoned with the charred remnants of douglas fir needles. Ash falls gently like the fluffy flakes of snow which will follow in a few months time.

This time the fire is running so we run too. We packed up everything we could and drove up the track. From the forest service road we could see flames jumping up the hillside with as much tenacity as the salmon had shown just hours earlier. We fled along the road which served BC’s second pillar of industry: logging.

The fire came and it burnt down the place I was living and working. It burnt the land which for thousands of years has been home to transient people and creatures who tingled at the knees as they saw salmon leaping up the valley. Now, fire leapt back down. That tingling excitement was replaced by shaking fear. By the time I was standing at the Boston Bar petrol station my hands were shaking.

We were fortunate to be the recipients of generosity and a kind couple in Yale let us stay whilst we put our plans together and chose a new direction to head. From their garden I wandered down to the Fraser for something to do. Looking at water has that wonderful power to dissipate unwanted thoughts. As I stood in the sun a couple of fishermen came over to the eddy to lay their net. They had a 24 hour window where they could fish for those varying commandos that were making their way upstream.

I hoped they would not be catching those poor fish that had fire and smoke to contend with too. There would not be many who would be strong enough to contend with the destruction too. Maybe their hearts are stronger than mine. Their focus so unwavering that they can push those fears of destruction to an irrelevant corner of their minds.

As an outsider, I was starting to feel like the benefits of extractive industry were being outweighed by the negatives. Sure wealth must be great but, is there anything greater than the security of a safe place to live? Is there anything more fulfilling than watching a creature display a clarity of focus which we, as an intelligent species, are incapable of achieving?

JASPER PRYOR is a young English writer and passionate environmentalist. He has a love for slow travel which has led him to walk the length of Scotland and cycle from Calais to Naples. Along the way he has discovered the beautiful corners of Europe and the degraded nature of so much of the UK. You can reach him at or through Malt at