Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Busy Day at Deer Creek

The water in Deer Creek seemed like it was up and a little less clear than last week. I figured it rained upstream somewhere. But based on the hydrograph, the water level has dropped since my last visit. Guess I just got used to the clear waters of Florida springs.

The water definitely warmed while I was gone, and I barely noticed the cold when I stuck my face in the rapid. I ferried across the swift current into the lee of the large rock that last week sheltered adult caddis flies heading back into the water. I expected to see more of this phenomenon, but things change fast in a stream. There were no caddis to be found. Instead the entire back of the rock was covered in bulbous sculpin eggs. At least that’s what I think they are. Sculpin are primarily nocturnal predators, and I would love to watch this egg laying process in the wild. Now I know when to look…the week before St Patrick’s day.

I drifted out from the protection of the rock into the main flow. A slab of grey wriggling into a gap between rocks on the bottom caught my eye. I stopped, turned and crawled upstream against the stiff current. Two of the largest eels I have ever seen were going after something under one of the large cobbles in the rapid. Were they hunting together? Or was each one out for itself? It sure seemed like they were working in tandem.

I continued to crawl upstream against the heavy current into the large pool above the rapid. Even the flow here was strong. Much of the eddy in this pool has been embedded by sand moved from upstream during some of the heavy flows this winter and late fall. The only thing certain about streams is that they change. I am attached to this pool. Joyce and I raised our family here. It’s the local swimming hole. I had my daughter in this pool when she was 6 months old. I taught my sons how to fish and snorkel here. Gracie will help me lead a snorkeling trip here for the first time this summer. And each time I come back it is different with more memories, different life, life doing things I can’t explain and don’t expect, different structure. I head out into the main flow and let the current carry me. I scare a huge carp as much as it scares me and it shoots upstream. I drift over a small advanced school of a dozen shad and they peel off to the right. Thousands will soon follow.

The current quickens as the stream bed comes up. Water is forced over rocks and I am painlessly drug with it, like a leaf in the current. I can correct my course here and there, but I am largely at the mercy of the river. Good reminder for life. I eventually reach an eddy which spins me into still water. I leave Deer Creek elated and feeling very much alive.

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