Recently hatched stone flies crawl over a remaining opaque white ice block stranded on the large rock I usually use to stage my gear. I strip down to a t-shirt and don’t get cold before I can get my fleece dry suit undergarment pulled up over my shoulders.
The 38 degree water almost felt warm, compared to the one degree above freezing conditions we experienced the last month. Things are starting to move toward spring. The signs are subtle but distinct, and sometime the progression is so rapid I miss the change if I am not in the rivers daily. Every year around this time it seems spring can’t arrive fast enough, but when it does it arrives all at once.
Rocks are crusted with the beginnings of an orange algal growth that should blossom into orange shag shortly. Many case maker caddis flies move around and graze instead of huddling together in the lee of rocks. Thirty eight degree water is still cold, but things are moving in the right direction.
The sequence into wintertime slumber starts with a flourish of furry algae, followed by an eruption of grazers, mostly caddis, that eventually huddle in groups behind rocks at about the same time most of the algal growth on rocks is gone. This order of events is starting to turn with the movement of the case maker caddis flies, and the initiation of the furry orange algal growth. These changes signal the reversal of the seasons which means the spring return of our migratory herring and shad is getting closer.
Migrating fish will move upstream soon. At least that’s the hope. It is a time full of expectation, especially expectation surrounding the uncertainty of what our migrants will look like this year.
Shad and herring have been dropping in numbers and each spring is filled with the nervous anticipation of their homecoming. Questions of whether they will return, and by how many dominate my thinking and I hope this is the year their declining population trend is reversed.