Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainbow Ballet

Fishing Creek was clear after a week without rain. I took advantage of the visibility to explore another section of stream, just 100 yards downstream from my last trip. Each stream is unique. Even adjacent stretches of the same creek can have drastically different feels as was the case here. Just 100 yards upstream, Fishing Creek is dominated with finer gravels, and a three foot deep hole is prominent in the stream scape. Here, 100 yards downstream, and downstream of a short steep riffle, fishing creek is different. There’s less gravel bar and more cobble and bedrock. And the fish community is different as a result. Upstream the fish I observed were mostly white sucker in the bottom of the gravely hole, with some black nosed and rosy sided dace hanging around a large rock and tree strainer in the center of the stream. Here, one of the first fish I saw was a northern hogsucker. These fish are elusive. They are excellently camouflaged, and they usually rocket off into the hazy distance by the time I notice them.
White suckers and creek chubs are also present, and I enjoy watching them feed on the bottom in the current. But what really catches my attention is the rainbow under a rock as a school of rosy sided dace hold their position in the current. Their red sides seemed to glow from the dark. It is a colorful time to be in streams. These fish, like many others are in breeding coloration as attempts are made to attract mates.
A little ways upstream a group of rosy sided dace dance above a patch of clean gravel nestled between two slabs of schist bedrock. Rainbow squiggles of red, green and blue dart in circles above the sediment free patch. Rosy sided dace spawn over nests of other fish, and what looked like two creek chubs hunkered on the bottom. I wonder if their clean gravel nest was the site of this reproductive ballet. Spring is an amazing time. The world awakens and just as the great freshwater migrations trickle to an end, the dramatic flashes of breeding fish color take over. All in the streams right in our own region.

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