We decided to leave Alexander Springs about a day early. We could have stayed and continue to play in the clear water and warm weather but requests for work on the Brandywine, White Clay, and Delaware were piling up. So we left the warmth to head back into the cold. When the thermometer on the dash board hit 79 we knew it’d be a long time before we saw 80 degrees and 100 foot visibilities again. But the Brandywine White Clay and Delaware are amazing places too. A forecast warm spell at home meant things might start moving in our rivers early so we drove through the night to get there. Stream life just seems to leap out this time of year, like someone throws a switch. We go from doldrulms, with not much moving, to streams packed with the excited energy of life. We didn’t want to miss the emergence, the instance the switch turns on.
Principio was swollen by a foot above normal, and the water roared through the falls. An adult caddis fly purposefully crawled on the bedrock slab, a good omen that Principio is chock full of life. The water was murky, but clear enough I could see bottom through a milky haze. Anything deeper than 2 feet wasn’t visible. The force was intense. I hung onto rocks and my body was tweaked and jabbed by the turbulence. I let the current take me and I flowed through a short rapid into a slower pool. I descended downstream rock by rock looking for life. I hoped for some early migrants. Heard yellow perch were just making their way up into the streams from tidal waters, and this part of the principio was lessthan a mile from the tide line. Or maybe I would see darters like I have in years past. Hundreds gather here, though I don’t understand the cue that causes the assemblage. But today I saw nothing. We didn’t miss the switch.
I clawed the half mile back upstream to where I put in and still didn’t see any fish. The intensity of the waters flow remained and my forearms burned from pulling my body through the current as I scanned the bottom through the murk for perch, darters, and possibly an errant very early herring. I saw nothing but white and orange quartz cobbles through the white haze. I really wanted to see the first spring fish, the ones that signify winter is done and temperatures are going to warm, but I was also happy I didn’t miss the switch. I can feel the system loaded with life’s energy ready to release and I am filled with excited anticipation. I will check the creeks just about daily from here on out so that I can witness that moment when life springs in our eastern rivers. It’s good to be home.