Small Stream Miscellany

Spring Creek.  You might recall that last winter I reported on what looked to be a crash in trout numbers at a popular upstate stream. Study by the New York State Department OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed the crash of wild trout populations in Spring Creek and in parts of Oatka Creek near Caledonia-Mumford. It is currently working to develop strategies for assisting nature’s recovery of this unique fishery in western New York.

Climate change brought severe winter weather to the region over the past two years. In 2015, the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, near Spring Creek, saw unprecedented ice conditions. Consequently, rafts of fish-eating ducks like mergansers and grebes were forced to retreat from the lake and to find open water. The relatively warm flow of Spring Creek near Caledonia and the state fish hatchery offered one of the few areas open for the fowl, so most of the brook and brown trout were consumed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast January I reported some excellent winter fishing on the creek, and then a few weeks later I reported (along with numerous other Spring Creek fans) on seeing nothing. It’s a sad tale of yet another consequence of global climate change, and we can’t blame the ducks. Every human being and every living creature has to eat and struggle to survive.

The good news is that recent electro-surveys of Spring Creek and surrounding areas indicate that young-of-the-year brown trout look to be in decent shape and, barring another weather catastrophe, will be growing quickly in the diet-rich waters of this special ecosystem.

Shift. Since I’m not planning to fish winter streams where trout are scarce, I’ve been looking elsewhere in the region. So far, the weather has been warm enough to allow investigation of some inland streams not yet flooded or covered by ice. I’ve recently fished Mill Creek, the Conhocton River and a few brook trout runs in Pennsylvania. Some exciting possibilities remain, as long as the basket of outdoor life hasn’t flipped completely over.

An employee of the New York DEC submitted a 2015 photo from an electro-survey of a small (unnamable) stream in the Genesee River watershed (Thanks, S. C.). The photo depicts a rare tiger trout, or brook-brown hybrid, capable of stirring the imagination of local anglers. In the past few years, I’ve caught a tiger trout or two, but not a wild fish such as this.tiger trout

As we contemplate the latest antics of those right-wing hooligans attempting to intimidate the country by seizing public lands in Oregon while inflicting upon us their paranoid views of government, I offer the following bit of small stream “Lite” from Scottish Humour:

“A man was cupping his hand to scoop water from a Highland burn. A gamekeeper shouted, ‘Dinnae drink tha waaater! Et’s foo ae coo’s shite and pish!’ The man replied, ‘My dear fellow, I’m from England. Would you kindly repeat that in English for me?’ The keeper replied, ‘I said use both hands, you’ll spill less that way!'”

A small window of opportunity. We experienced a few cold nights that brought icy cover to the ponds and small streams of the region. Then it warmed, and the weather forecast suggested that heavy rain was coming. Nonetheless, it was possible to sneak off and grab my angling fix on Saturday afternoon. Doing so, I had to be careful with the slippery ground along some Pennsylvania runs.

Let’s call one of them Denton Run. I’d walked portions of this Susquehannock State Forest stream a time or two, but had never fished it. I can reach this headwaters tributary in less than an hour; I was overdue to cast my line.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fishing is prohibited on the lower mile of private “nursery water,” but with an upstream hike along a state Bureau of Forestry trail, I reached an inviting stretch of Denton Run. Snow and ice remained along the edges of this native trout stream so, of course, I stepped with winter care, especially on the leafy surfaces of rocks and boulders. This was no place to snap a fly rod or a leg, but it was suitable for contemplating one’s mortality and for study of a picturesque stream in January garb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some colorful brookies live in the run. I brought in several for a quick inspection and release. Again, I gave thanks to the wild places on this earth, and for the opportunity to see another one close to home. May they flourish for their own sake, always, I thought. And for our own well-being when we take the time to care.

The beaver dams on trout streams dilemma (again). Beavers may migrate to a new trout stream in the neighborhood, like refugees from overpopulated or conflicted watersheds, whether we want them there or not. New beaver dams on an eastern stream that’s already compromised by man’s activities may form a tipping point that leads to further problems through siltation and thermal pollution. New dams on a western stream, where drought is common and wetlands scarce, can lead to greater protection and a richer food base for native trout.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Evaluation has to be site specific. Chewing down trees and engineering trout-resistant dams aren’t acts of four-legged terrorism. After all, these rodents can assist in the establishment of insects, birds, amphibians, warm-water fishes, and other mammals, i.e., creatures that do not resort to firearms or intimidation when looking for new habitat. That doesn’t mean we’ve got to love the excess beaver on our trout streams.

It is simply nature’s way.

Small stream-of-consciousness, or the stars look very dif-fe-rent today… Some of us were greatly saddened this week to learn of David Bowie’s death. I’ve been an ardent Bowie fan ever since “Hunky Dory” hit the turn-tables back in ’71. The pioneer rock musician and performer will be missed by many who appreciate fine art and music with an edge.tarpon

Can you see the rivertops while at sea? Well, certainly, or maybe… if you use imagination. My daughter’s got a place on the island of St. Croix. We know it’s not trout that feed there in the mix of waters in her island photograph. I wonder… would tarpon grab an artificial?

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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19 Responses to Small Stream Miscellany

  1. Brent says:

    I was going to ask what you thought about Bowie’s passing. I can’t remember an artist’s death that elicited such a response, at all levels. I’ve been listening to his stuff the last several nights, from several of his phases. Hoping to hear his full new album soon.

    (Good stuff on the rest of the post too! Some echoes of my beaver discussion on a previous post.)

    • Hey, thanks Brent. At my age I’ve seen the passing of many favorite musical heroes from the pop world– Janis, Jimi, Beefheart, Zappa, Lou Reed– just to name a few of the closer ones to my experience but, for some reason, which I can’t quite peg, none have struck me to the same degree as Bowie’s passing. Of course, I grew up with his albums, but there’s something more going on, as well, which I’ll have to think about some more as time goes on and I take in the music again. Yeah, I see that satellite radio has established a week-long Bowie station (The Loft) that is worth listening to, as well.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Always a delight to read your posts, and once again, nae full o’ shite an’ pish. I’m looking forward to running into a Scottish gamekeeper or two this coming summer. I’ll let them give me both barrels, and then show the Canadian passport.
    Picturesque is seriously underselling how beautiful these streams and inhabitants are.
    Like many, very shaken by Bowie’s passing, almost inexplicably so. So much to celebrate though. On form, he was astonishing, below form, still more interesting than most (I even enjoyed his Tin Machine exploits…)
    A wonderful miscellany – thanks, Walt!

    • Ah, the fortunate PlaidCamper, to be visiting olde Scotland again. Just keep that passport handy for flashin’ at those cocky gamekeepers, they’re tough old buzzards, I hear.
      Always good to hear your comments here and to read your blog posts there. Glad that you’ve appreciated the thin white duke in all his various disguises and musical transformations. Yeah, some of Tin Machine was pretty powerful, too, wasn’t it?
      Thank you much, Plaid.

  3. Doug says:

    Sorry bro. If it will make you feel any better I’ll sell you a copy of BTRR for same. I just didn’t want to assume that. Let me know.

    • Doug says:

      Leave it to me to fuck up a kind gesture.

      • Doug, no problem. Looking forward to getting your new one for the same price. Sounds good!

      • Doug says:

        It’s not as big as yours, but The quality is definitely there. I could only have 50 copies printed up which messed with the cost big time. But all a man can do is all a man can do. There is a poem in there titled Going Stone. It was highly suggested to send to the New Yorker. Even if it gets rejected, it’s that powerful. Funny, because it is one of my favorites. Oh will, it will go somewhere big. If I don’t sent it, it won’t get that slim chance. All in all, I’m proud as hell. Beautiful Like A Mayfly is killer bro. As I figured it would be. Love the blog this week too. You’re freaking on a roll.

      • Doug, Well, a man can, and must, give it his best shot. Good luck with that poem, and with the whole collection. Can’t wait to read it! And thanks for the kind words about the latest!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    I kinda came later in life to Bowie fandom, but man, what a bummer. As a huge Lou Reed admirer, this kinda hits me as a one-two punch, given their collaborative efforts over the years (throw Iggy Pop into the mix as well). I have as of yet to catch a tiger trout. Maybe a ’16 resolution…

    • Thank you, Bob. I don’t know what to make of it, a bummer, sure, but the music is out there, and will last a long while. As for tiger trout, they’re out there, too, somewhere, and another fine uncertainty.

  5. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Every time one of these rockers passes it brings home the fact that you and I and the rest of us baby boomers are there in that age group. Its hard to believe the rock stars we grew up with are getting old, not to say 69 is old but it does get your attention. I ask my self often now where have all the years gone in such a fast pace?
    Denton Run is a perfect example why you and the rest of my bloggers in the Northeast love to fish small streams. Enjoyed the post!!!

    • I think that’s it; you’ve got it there, Bill. We’ve grown up with these iconic figures; we’re of the age, and their passage takes away a part of who we are. We’re all just mortals, after
      all. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. I’m glad you liked the post.

  6. At the risk of a lynching, I was not a big Bowie fan. Heresy, I know, but I’m still trying to work through John Lennon. I know you are educated to climate change, etc. I would appreciate it if you could lead me through to your way of thinking.

    • No worry, Howard, corporate headquarters doesn’t allow lynching in any form or format, all ramblings considered. Musical taste is personal. I do have an early British bias, though I love a lot of the American stuff, too. Still have trouble with most of John Lennon (talk about heresy!). As for climate change, I’m nothing of an expert certainly, just following through on hunches and relying as much as possible on scientific evidence. I’ll work on this angle in some upcoming posts.

  7. I’d appreciate your viewpoint Walt. I’m trying to make informed decisions and as long as it’s discussed as political, I refuse to believe either side.

    • I’d be happy to try, Howard, and will work on this soon. As for the point in question that I included in this post, let’s say that I read in a couple of meteorlogical sources (can’t remember where now) that climate change is causing unprecedented swings in weather events– cold to hot to supercold or superhot, drought to record rainfall– extremes that continue to break records nearly every year.
      I’ve been hearing scientific reports about global warming ever since the 80s, I think. Here in the Northeast, the last couple of winters have been record-breaking frigid and long because (so say the reports I read) the Arctic is actually warming. Ice is melting, etc., forcing the warm air to rise and push out the freezing air that used to stay put in the polar regions. Hence, the frequency of the “polar vortex” has increased in the Northeast region as the streams of cold get funnelled southward.
      Well, now it’s relatively warm because of El Nino. Crazy.
      So, the record cold here caused the freakin’ Great Lakes to ice over the last two winters. Who’d have thought? The rafts of fish-eating ducks that normally stay on the open waters of the lakes moved in search of open streams– the spring streams of the area that typically are warmer. They ate all the wild trout.
      Biology and other natural systems are completely interrelated, of course. So, if a thread of our natural systems gets yanked from its ball, another thread gets pulled, too. And, I’m just speaking for this one example of recent events. Other examples abound, but I don’t know how to speak for them specifically because, well, as the earth heats up, some really complicated problems arise.
      More later, my friend. Thanks for asking and letting me ramble.

  8. Doug says:

    I love it. For me I t is worth every cent in quality. I’m proud as hell. That makes it all worth while.

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